Monday, August 27, 2012

Dad & I Loved DQ Dipped Cones For As Long As I Can I Remember...

When I was a kid, Dad often took me on errands to the local hardware store, the coin-activated car wash or during school holidays and summer vacation to his office in Hallettsville, an half-hour drive where he worked as an insurance agent.

At DQ in Yoakum ~ 2009

In Yoakum, done with our tasks and on the way home, the truck clean or the bolts and washers in a brown paper bag, Dad asked (and I always wondered why he did) if I wanted to stop at Dairy Queen. In the early '80s, it wasn't one of the two dozen fast food restaurant choices
like we have now; it was the only choice. In Texas, though, DQ was dang good, especially when it came to needing a little snack to hold ya over until dinner or satisfy that sweet tooth. My sweet tooth, let me tell ya, is something I inherited -- a serious and delicious issue on both sides of my family. (Perhaps more on that later.) See, I always, without fail, said yes, so asking the question regarding DQ was merely father-daughter protocol. Before the tires hit the parking lot pavement, I could taste the cool rich ice cream with its signature swirl and the crackle of smooth chocolate. The ice cream had a depth, richness that set it apart from store-bought ice cream and other varieties once they started to show up in the marketplace. Of all goodies, this soft serve made me into a mess with my own ice cream mustache, vanilla rimmed around my lips, forever licking a cone until it was completely gone, not another lick left. From the highs of an entire cone to the sadness of an empty napkin and the sprinkling of crumbs, I worked my way through the pools of melting vanilla on Texas afternoons & evenings. It tasted to me, always, like endless summer.

The two of us -- Dad and I -- always liked a good sweet treat from certain cookies to snack
cakes to Mom's homemade peach cobbler, Dad and I shared a love for desserts -- no matter the time of day. My Dad was like a big, goofy kid, and well, I was a kid. So it worked out great.
Two silly kids, all smiles, ready for ice cream.

Driving up to order, he didn't have to ask what I wanted; he knew. You could call us boring.
You could call us routine. We liked what we liked. I preferred to think of it as a tradition.
The chocolate dipped cone is hard to beat. Although once the Blizzard made it on the scene in
1985, we did switch it up. I switched up my orders more than him. I loved getting the candy (M&Ms & later the German Chocolate - no longer available) of my choice mixed with that famous ice cream that DQ employees served upside down to prove its consistency and yumminess. Apparently, I wasn't the only one to enjoy the taste. FACT: In 1985, Dairy Queen sold 100
million Blizzards its first year to premiere.

Even with the Blizzard a Behemoth of the confections world, the dipped cone continued to be a
mainstay in the Einhaus family. I loved to watch the vanilla cone being made from the passenger seat: the soft serve gently churned from the large, silver machine. The vanilla rested gently on the cone and always ended with that exact curlicue. If not, the employee
started over but that rarely happened it seemed.
Then it was time for the magic. [Drum roll, please!] Like the circus tightrope walk, the magician's rabbit out of the hat, or how Mom made some vegetables and beans actually taste good (minus spinach-ugh!)... It was all beyond me!

I was so ready. So was Dad. I loved to hear the crackling of the chocolately shell between my
teeth, me the conquerer of yummy chocolate. The silky-smooth, cold vanilla ice cream tasted so good on extremely humid days. I could never eat it fast enough before it dripped down the sides of my cone. Dribbles of soft-serve laced my nails, fingers, wrists... It was not easy to
eat but that never deterred us. 'We kept truckin,' as Dad might've said. If you want to enjoy it, that is... You gotta eat with speed and finesse. Dad probably should have attached a bib
and a hairnet on me. Just. In. Case. Even with air conditioning and vehicle windows up, I still managed to get some all over me like a newborn. Ok, I wasn't that bad. But eating this
treat can be tricky business. Tasty, tasty. But tricky, tricky! Even so, we always snacked happily when it was a DQ dipped cone. The treat itself made us happy. We never had a problem
finishing one before returning to Bluebonnet Lane AKA Home Sweet Home, just a 5-7 minute drive. We always finished our cake cones before we got out of the truck, wrappers wadded tight
in our hands, ready for the trash can. Sometimes we got dipped cones right before dinner and
that didn't settle too well with Mom. Yet, Mom knew it wasn't just chocolate on a cone. It was a father-daughter bonding experience. She just liked it better if we went after lunch on
weekends or after supper on weekdays and weekends as to not ruin "all the good food I've

The beautiful cone is in its fresh cake cone... now ordered. The customer [my dad and I] can
hardly wait. You know it's yours. You want to speak up and say, "Don't touch." "That's mine."
"Hands off."
Then the creamy, white ice cream cone in all its brilliance is turned upside down -- you
nearly gasp -- and yes, magic occurs: it is quickly dunked, DUNKED into a bath of creamy, delicious milk chocolate. Waiting is getting more and more difficult as time goes on... I remember the jumping in my seat, tapping my feet: "Is it ready, is it ready?" Remember, only child here.

Dipped once. Twice. Then again. Each ice cream cone is baptized before us in chocolate until it is pure perfection. The first delivery & the second are made through the tiny clear drive-
thru window.
Finally! Two chocolate dipped cones, mere perfection.

"I want that one," I said of the obviously large dipped cone. Dad handed me my order, the smaller, daintier cone. He begins to chomp on his and rolls the vehicle forward in the drive-
thru lane. He turns to me, "How is it?"
I am too busy eating to respond at first. I love this treat and this common bond. I just don't realize how much I will miss it in the future.
"Just as good as the last one," I say. "Mmmm!"

In Texas, we have Blue Bell ice cream competing for the sweet tooth's attention, among other enchanting goodies. In the Lone Star State, a resident is very lucky. Dairy Queen drive-thrus
are in nearly every town/city. In fact, there might even be more than one! We even have a specialized menu here at many of the DQ restaurants.

During "The Moving Years," my parents and I relocated from Texas to the Pacific Northwest and back. The zig-zags on the map would make anyone dizzy. The Dipped Cone Tradition continued but it wasn't nearly as frequent or with the verve of the early 1980s. During that chaos we managed to continue the tradition here and there and sometimes Mom participated. I just missed the good ol' days.

The cirlique itself started to reflect our life: an arc, a rollercoaster ride of sorts. The DQ stop became more than just ice cream. It was a chance to review, reflect, and revise. We didn't have the dipped cone every day at 4 p.m. It was a family treat we had every now and again. While licking the dripping contents on the cone, I laughed or talked about my ups
and downs at school. My parents discussed their "adult" topics (money, work, etc.) while I finished my cone and half-daydreamed/half-eavesropped. We were extremely close as a family,
the three of us, making time for each other: chatting, giggling, listening, advising, and often celebrating. Other times, we might cheer each another up, if needed. This ice cream became something other: our balm. It became, at times, a soothing RX for life's troubles.

It wasn't until years into our stay in Lewiston, Idaho that the dipped cone family frenzy regained its reign. It was the late 1990s that the chocolately confection began to
restore its role in our family as the multi-purpose treat that it truly is as smile-giver, laugh-provider, and as ultimate positive confection. Things were looking up! I was out of
college and on the cusp of living on my own for the first time. My parents and I were living in Lewiston and we would make the the small trek -- just a few short miles -- to
DQ from the house for three medium dipped cones. Sometimes I would think the tops of the
signature ice cream looked liked abstract smiley faces or maybe I was just so happy at the resurgence of our tradition (like it was in the good ol' days). Perhaps you are a bit unsure and maybe even shaking your head thinking that's crazy... Well, I guess the snack could be healthier and to that I say you only live once! And to those who think this is a summer thing, think again. Yes, it tasted a bit more refreshing to the taste buds that time of year and in Texas you might have wanted to slather the vanilla cone on yourself during particular hot, humid summers back in the day but other than that it has been an equal-opportunity, equal season family tradition.

My dad passed away from cancer in 2001. He was 51. I was in my early 20s. Even a year after
his passing, the DQ tradition was the furthest item from my mind until a colleague at work talked to me about the loss of her mother. She told me that on birthdays, anniversaries, and
days that she even missed her mom she did something her mom loved doing. It really clicked with me and ended up helping me a great deal. Oddly enough, hiking, my dad's favorite hobby, came to mind. I even thought of taking my Mom to Dairy Queen, if she was willing.

On the second anniversary of his passing, Mom and I went to a park where a tree memorial
stands in my father's honor highlighting his work as an environmental activist. Afterward I suggested a certain chocolate treat. Mom did not answer right away. But when she did, it was
positive. "That's a great idea."

After a quick drive from the park, Mom pulled into Dairy Queen. At the drive-thru, after some
waiting, we ordered two medium dipped cones. Unsure how I would deal with this emotionally, I
braced myself as best I could. I worried that I didn't bring enough tissues. Yet when I saw
the two cake cones sealed with chocolate I wasn't sad like I predicted. It was oddly comforting like when you hear a familiar song on the radio that you haven't heard in ages and
still know every last word. Just the mere sight of the chocolate treats eased my pain...just a
smidge. It was what I needed. My body became less tense. My friend from work was right. It doesn't bring the person back, of course, but it brings back memories that actually soften the roughest edges of grief.

After purchasing the chocolate goodies, Mom drove across the street to an empty parking lot so we could enjoy the desserts in relative quiet. We sat there among the low hum of traffic and
all I could hear was the crunching of the chocolate shells. My ice cream began running down
the cone and all over my fingers. I began searching for napkins and we had one for the both of us.

"Lick faster," Mom alerted me, her voice high.
"OK, OK! What do you think I am doing?" I said through giggles, wishing for napkins or a
squirt hose. What a mess. Exactly like the old days.
"Great, now I got it on my shirt," I report.
Mom shook her head, always amazed at her only daughter.
"I've got something at home that will help get it out," she said through ice cream licks.
I then look at her and want to tell her she has a piece of chocolate shell decorating her chin. It's my little game I play with her & she usually falls for it every time.
I said to her, pointing to my chin, revealing I'm not the only messy one, "What am I going to do with you?"
I got down to my favorite part, the final bite. Mom starts the ignition. We begin our way
home. I pop the flavorful bite in my mouth. The perfect proportions of crunchy cake cone and creamy vanilla ice cream. Delicious. One of my favorite combos.
Mom turns to look at me, "That was a good idea."
I erupt in giggles. I can't stop. I can tell the trip to Dairy Queen has made a difference in me, something I am most grateful for, especially on the anniversary of a loved one's passing. My dad.
"Now don't do that," she said in her teacher voice. She looked at me in the nearing dusk. She drove through the valley named after frontier explorers Meriwhether Lewis and William Clark. My extended giggles made her self-conscious.
"What is it? Do I have something on my face? Ice cream? Where is it?"
I point to my chin, make eye contact, and then glance down at her eyes. But it's getting
darker by the moment. I honestly don't know what had come over me with the giggles.
She sorta half-looked in the car rear-view mirror.
"I'll get it when I get home," she said.
Knowing all too well a completely different tradition in my mother's family, the women are
taught to wear nice undergarments and clothing whenever they step foot in a vehicle in case of
an accident. Knowing this, I proceed with, "What if a policeman stops us?"
A giggle or two slips out. I can't keep this up much longer.
"Where is it?"
[A-ha. Got her.)
"Tiny piece right on your chin. A piece of chocolate right here [pointing to the center of my chin] is going to aggravate a policeman? Will he give you a ticket... for misplaced

I remember the passenger side explode in giggles at that point.
I haven't felt this good in...
A long time.
Thanks to Dairy Queen. Thanks to Dad.
We are home in a few moments. Before she turned off the motor, I barely got out the truth.
"Joke. Mom, it was a joke."
I hesitate, for a brief moment, hoping she will see the humor & lightness of the moment.
I recall her turning to look at me in the last moments of daylight. We look at each other at exactly the same time.
She starts laughing. Really laughing... I am actually happy for the first time in a really long time.

We get dipped cones again real soon. Like Friday. Ok, maybe it was the next day.

Want to start a new family tradition and make your own dipped cones,

go here.

©The Healing Redhead


  1. Love love love this entry, Les! Made me smile and tear up! You are truly a gifted writer....I'm craving DQ now. :) Love you, Les!

  2. This was great, Leslie! I had to stop in the middle of it for something I had to do and I really did not want to put it down!!! You are truly a gifted writer. Keep up the good work! Love you, Aunt Jamie