On a hot summer day several years ago when my two daughters were ages 8 and 2 and a half, we were in the car with the windows rolled down, on our way home from one place or another, and I noticed a 7-Eleven coming up.
"Who wants a Slurpee?" I suddenly asked. I glanced in the rear view mirror, expecting excited replies at mom's spontaneity and generosity, but was met with blank stares.
"What's a Slurpee?" replied the older one.
I was stunned and deflated. My children didn't know about Slurpees. How could this be?
I had been on a quest to improve our general health and nutrition and as much as possible tried to limit their consumption of high fructose corn syrup, food dyes and the like, but what is childhood without knowing the occasional joy of an ice cold Slurpee on a hot summer day?
Surely this was a moment of parental failure.
"It's a cold treat," I replied. "It's yummy."
My 8-year-old shrugged with the apathy of someone twice her age and said, "Okay, I'll have one." The 2-year-old, however, was so intrigued and excited that she could hardly contain herself. She wiggled furiously against the constraints of her car seat as I parked the car. I managed to get her unhooked despite her wild movement and carried her into the store.
As soon as we entered her little eyes practically bugged out of her head and she somehow acquired the neck swiveling capabilities of an owl. I felt her little fists clench tightly to my shirt and in a shrill shriek she exclaimed, "What is dis? WHAT IS DIS?"
How could you, mama? How could I not have known of the existence of a tiny shop full to the brim with junk food? She struggled out of my arms and started running around wildly, taking in all the delights.
"Back here," I told her. "This is where the Slurpees are." I led them both to the back of the store and pointed out the glorious spinning machines of brightly colored wonder.
I asked my eldest what flavor she would like, and she looked them over and decided upon cherry. The youngest was still in squeaky shriek mode and also declared she wanted, "CHERRRRY! I want cherry too!"
I filled up a cup with the red deliciousness, put on a lid and grabbed a straw, all while the little one danced around me in anticipation, arms up and shrieking, "I want it! I want it!" I handed it down to her and barely caught it as her hands quickly grasped it and then released. "It's COLD!"
"Yes, it's cold. Here, I'll hold it and you take a sip."
She did so, and a parade of funny looks went quickly across her face, ending with a squished up nose and a declaration of, "I don't yike it."
I encouraged her to try again to no avail, and concluded that I would be having cherry even though I had wanted cola, and told her to pick out a different treat. She wandered around excitedly and finally settled on a bag of Doritos.
As we drove home I glanced in the rear view mirror and watched her devour her cheesy chips with bright orange fingers, happily crunching away, and wondered if perhaps she would come to associate Doritos with hot summer days instead of Slurpees.
I looked again at her contented orange face and couldn't help but grin. I took a sip of my cold, yummy cherry Slurpee and decided that would be A-OK with me.