I can't remember how my family came to know about the creamery. It was a little farm in Newtown, Connecticut that boasted more than 50 flavors of ice cream -- a little scoop of heaven, to be cliche.
It is the real deal. Real as in the cows that make it sit in the field and watch you while the ice cream drips out of your cone. It is homemade dairy goodness that satisfies an ice cream fix better than any pint of Ben and Jerry's.
For my family, it has become the place of birthdays (yes they make cakes), bad days and "I worked out today."
Ferris Acres Creamery has become a slightly (totally) sinful yet wonderful ritual. A ritual that began with the drive there, where all of us would talk like we hadn't seen each other in weeks, lucky to get a word in.
A ritual that meant so much more than what it appeared to be, which usually took its form in eating too much and cursing my brother, who usually convinced us to go. Or the times when I got the flavor of the day and hardly got to taste any of it.
Between spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream with carmel swirls and chocolate covered pretzels, we would laugh from the bottoms of our bellies. We would all take turns sneaking sips of Dad's coffee shake with hot fudge, which he requested we deliver back to him.
There was the drive back, where we were silenced with full stomachs. We instead listened to our new favorite song too loud with the windows rolled down.
Bonding by ice cream. Bliss by ice cream.
And while all of us have tried nearly every flavor on the menu, there was one dessert journey we had yet to embark on. The Creamery Challenge. It was 12 scoops of ice cream, six toppings, whipped cream, hot fudge and cherries. And the McQuade Family was going to do it. It cost $15, or if you don't finish, your dignity.
"Challenge tonight?" is all my brother would say. And we always found an excuse. Too tired, too full, too much. But on my sister's last night before leaving for college, we ran out of excuses. We set the date and skipped dinner that night, a vain attempt at cutting calories.
My brother practically squealed from excitement as we charged him with placing the order. Chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, banana cream pie, moon dance and dulce delish. Reese's Pieces, cookie dough, sprinkles, Oreos, Heath Bar and Kit-Kats.
We saw this as a game. A hilarious, mildly disgusting game. We gave a full play-by-play through Twitter, Vine and Instagram. I loved bananas so I took over the banana cream pie portion. Molly was good for anything chocolate. Maggie loved hot fudge so she ate whatever was left. Michael was a toppings man so he tackled most of those.
We cheered each other on. We pushed each other forward. My brother had waited years to do this, so we would be eating every last drop, even if it took all night. After an equipment malfunction (Maggie's spoon broke), a few groans (Molly ate way too fast) and one inspirational text message from Mom, our guts were officially busted.
Looking back on it now, The Challenge was the pinnacle moment when I realized just how much time we had spent together over ice cream. How many ice cream cone pictures we had taken, how many times my sister fed me ice cream as I drove home, how many times we hopped in the car on a rainy day, hoping for the rare instance when the infamous duck would be out swimming and we could get half off.
My siblings are my best friends. It isn't to say we wouldn't have spent time together anyway, but ice cream at the end of the drive just made it all a little bit sweeter.
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