If there is one summer treat that goes beyond the boundaries of class, race, geography or imagination, it’s got to be the ice pop. Fla-Vor-Ice, Otter Pops, they go by a bunch of names, sometimes none at all. In grocery stores, drug stores, dollar stores everywhere, sometimes in boxes of 100 for under $10, they’re the quintessential hot weather delight.
Strangely, I don’t remember having ice pops around very much when I was a kid, though we must have. It was as a parent, young and poor, that I really have my strongest memories of these icy little expressions of love.
And, what goes better with ice pops than Harry Potter?
When my oldest child was about 7 or 8, we decided to embark upon the epic series. It must have been my idea, he never was as big a fan as I was, and the notion of making our way through those doorstops in the course of one summer was daunting. He spent more time with me during the summer than during the school year, since his dad lived in a better school district. So we had summers to bum around and do…not much, really. I was terribly underemployed, so we had a lot of time, and no money, and it was hot. We would go to the library to cool off, check out books and see what the world could offer us for free, or at least very cheap.
I had read the whole Harry Potter series when it first arrived, in the late 90s because my younger sister was so into them, and the mixture of protection and curiosity was the perfect reason to read these “kid’s books” that were taking over the whole world, but more to the point, our home.
I loved them, without reservation or irony, even though I was already a young adult when they came out. I related to so much of each of the main characters—Harry’s alienation from his home and family, Ron’s constant worry that everyone would see that he was a bumbling oaf and probably not the child his mother wanted, Hermione’s intelligence masking her insecurity about being in a world to which she wasn’t born (remember, her parents were dentists?). All these themes felt to me like they couldn’t have co-existed peacefully, much less in a children’s book, but of course, no one has more complicated inner lives than children. With all this baggage being carried by the Hogwarts crew, I couldn’t wait for my son to be able to read well enough to embark on his own journey with Harry, et al.
The obvious solution to reading all those books with an early reader was…audiobooks! We found them on CD, read by Jim Dale in a record-breaking performance for most characters portrayed by one person. For some reason, this fact fascinated us as much as the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The first book was, I think, four compact discs long. I had a Bridge card, and a library card, and a window a/c unit in my bedroom. We would plug in a boom box in the bedroom, and lay on the bed with a thousand pillows, books, notebooks, and pencils, eating ice pops. We would pause the story when we got bored, or hungry but mostly we just laid on my bed, listening. The majority of our calories that summer probably came from sugar and food dye.
A year or two later, I got a job in an auto plant and was able to save up enough money to take him to Universal Studios, which housed the brand-spanking-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We drank butterbeer at The Leaky Cauldron, but nothing was as refreshing, or as closely associated in my mind with Harry Potter, as those frozen plastic tubes.
I married when my oldest son was 12 and had two more sons. Our life is pretty different from my first time around raising kids. We live a comfortable middle-class life, and I stay home with them. In the suburb where I live, there is always some kind of unspoken competition to be the Best Mom Ever, which involves all manner of artisanal, organic, allergen-free, non-GMO, carefully curated diet for each kid. It’s all very fancy, and tense. I’m grateful for the security we have, but for me, there is no substitute for the 100/$10 box of Fla-Vor-Ice tubes from the drug store. That cold hits different when it’s the only thing keeping you from the frying pan and the fire.
This article was made possible by the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, a project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, that’s working to increase quality journalism and help better inform communities.
Author: Elisa Gurulé
Elisa Gurulé grew up at political meetings and picket lines with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother in Detroit. Now living in Grosse Pointe Park, she is the admin of Little Pointers for Diversity, a group dedicated to pushing for equity and inclusion in the Pointes. Her husband and three sons help, too.