Making this homemade treat always reminds me of summers past.
Posted in , Jul 1, 2006
Yesterday, she was my little girl. Now, in only a few weeks, my daughter Katie would be getting married. I didn't know what stressed me more—getting through the wedding or seeing my baby girl all grown up. No such worries plagued my mother, though (she'd been through this with my sister and me). Mama invited the whole family to her house to celebrate tonight. Nothing fancy, just a cookout in her backyard. "Julie-babe," she said to me, "how 'bout making some of that homemade peach ice cream of yours?"
The ice-cream recipe came from a friend who always brought it to our neighborhood Fourth of July parties. In Georgia, fresh peaches are everywhere this time of year, and the ice cream was a great way to put them to good use. My children adored it, especially Katie. I closed my eyes and could still picture that little girl with the ice cream dribbling down her chin, and her hands a sticky mess. I remembered dabbing her face with a wet napkin and giving her a kiss on the forehead before she'd go bounding off to play. Was it really so long ago? In my mind, I knew she was all grown up. But my heart still wasn't ready to let go.
Early the next morning, I headed out to my favorite fruit stand to pick up some peaches. Grabbing a basket, I chose each peach carefully, one by one, feeling their fuzzy skin for just the right degree of firmness. Cradling the basket of peaches in my arms, I thought about the first time I held Katie, 22 years earlier. What a surprise she had been! She didn't look anything like me—her skin wasn't fair, her hair wasn't red. And she stared right into my eyes and giggled. How could a baby that small and fragile grow into the confident, grown woman who would be walking down the aisle in just a few short weeks now? She'd be a wife. Lord, will Katie still be my little girl?
Back at home, I peeled and pitted the peaches. Golden juice dribbled all over my hands. That unforgettable aroma filled the kitchen, every bit as sweet as childhood summer days. I bit into one. It was so good I wouldn't need to add a lot of sugar.
I thought about wedding details as I beat the eggs with a wire whisk and added a bit of sugar and evaporated milk. Did we have a final head count for the reception? Was the music going to be good? Would the weather be cooperative? Then I put the peeled and pitted peaches into a blender and mixed everything together.
With a teaspoon, I tasted my peachy concoction. Perfect! As Mama always said, "It's so good it'll make you climb up the wall." I slid the steel inner section of the ice-cream maker into the freezer; then there was nothing to do but wait for it to solidify.
Late in the afternoon, my husband, kids and I headed to Mama's house. Walking into Mama's backyard felt as though I'd stepped right back into one of those long-ago Fourth of July parties. Daisy paper plates, sunny yellow napkins and colored plastic forks and spoons covered the picnic table. Potted geraniums reached out from the corners of the deck. The lawn chairs were spread out in a circle. Candles glowed and lightning bugs dotted the yard.
Katie ran over to me. She gave me a big hug. "I'm so excited, Mom," she said with a wide smile.
"Me too," I replied. But that knot in my stomach was still there.
After dinner, I set the ice cream down on the table. "Looks tasty!" Mama said. Everyone gathered around. With a long-handled spoon, I put a scoop of sunset-colored peach ice cream into one of the daisy bowls. I served Katie first.
"Here you go," I said, handing her the ice cream. Not wanting to cry, I tried to focus on her bowl.
"Thanks, Mom," she said. And then her brown eyes caught mine. "Remember how messy I would get when I was little?"
My heart fluttered. Then I smiled. "I thought you'd forgotten all about those things," I said to her.
Katie smiled. "I'll never forget," she said quietly.
We hugged and I kissed her forehead, just as I'd done so many years earlier, and so many years since. We let the spoonfuls of sweet peach ice cream melt on our tongues.
I looked at my grown girl. She had a new life ahead of her, but she was still my baby.
Ice cream may melt away, but love never does.
This summer, try Julie's Homemade Peach Ice Cream.