We All Scream for Ice Cream

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          It just doesn’t get any better than the “ice cream social.”

       For many autumns now we have pursued the tradition of putting our youngest with our oldest to enjoy everyone’s favorite – ice cream.  Because there are typically many more seniors than first graders, many of the latter get matched with more than one senior.  Those kids count themselves lucky.  At any event, after E Bell seniors go down to the first grade classrooms to pick up their charges and take them to the Pit.  The Meriwether Godsey folks set up tables containing big tubs of ice cream and all sorts of toppings under the walkways.  It feels a little bit like Christmas morning, even if it is 80 degrees outside. Seniors visit with a first-grader.

           With some exceptions, they arrive in the same fashion – the first graders terribly nervous and out of their element, and the seniors looking mildly concerned that they won’t know how to connect with the little ones.  But ice cream, particularly chocolate ice cream topped with cherries and whipped cream, is also a universal ice breaker.  The lines move quickly, and before long there are groups of two or three all around the pit seriously digging in to their bowls.  The looks of delight on the faces of the little ones tend to erase the worried looks on the faces of the seniors.  Before long the sugar has hit the bloodstream and now there are no sitting groups.  The Pit and the area around it become a dizzy mix of games of keep-away and tag, the air filled with those unmistakable high-pitched squeals of pleasure that only six-year-olds can make.

 Lower school students and seniors enjoy ice cream.         Soon it is time to return to Smith-Hofheimer.  The trip back to the Lower School looks nothing like the trip out; it’s more of a skip than a walk.  There will be several other events in which the students will be reunited, so the goodbyes are not final.  After parting, each of the two grade levels will share stories of how silly some first grader was or perhaps how “cool” some senior was (or maybe vice-versa).  I suspect that the first grade teachers have designed some transition activity to slowly take the edge off the little ones.  And parents will hear all about it at dinner time.

          In its earliest stages, the plan of merger with Country Day School called for the lower school to remain behind on North Shore Road while grades seven through twelve set up shop on Wesleyan Drive.  Lower school students and seniors relax during the social.That would have been a terrible shame.  I can remember as a new second grader toting my yearbook up to big impressive seniors for autographs.  Getting Dubby Wynne’s signature made my year.  And even if we youngest ones were sequestered in the separate “Little Red Schoolhouse,” the main building was only steps away and grade levels mixed readily and often.  It was bigger than school spirit.  It was about belonging to something large and mysterious and absolutely wonderful.

 Seniors and lower school students.          Classes of 100+ and a campus sprawling over 85 acres make such feelings harder to produce.  Surely no one wants to go back to the days of senior classes numbering in the teens.  But with events like school-wide seminars and pep rallies and Field Day we can capture a little of the magic now and then.  I wish we could do more.

          When they were sure there was plenty of ice cream to go around, the seniors invited the faculty to fix a bowl and join the party.  It was absolutely delicious, made even better by 200 or so deliriously happy people swirling around.  So I have to repeat myself.

          It just doesn’t get any better than the ice cream social.Students write to their upper school buddies.

2 Responses to We All Scream for Ice Cream

  1. Tommy H. says:

    Great stuff, Toy. Hope you and your family — and all my friends at NA — have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Ken W. says:

    “It was about belonging to something large and mysterious and absolutely wonderful.”

    I recall the same feelings as a lower-schooler. What’s interesting to me, is that I feel them even moreso now, as a parent and alum.

    Thanks for the blog, and please keep it up.

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