Secrets. Tiny, twisted, gremlins, gnawing at your conscience. Whispered giggles of surprises yet to come. Nagging itches between your shoulder blades. Kept or sold. Shared or hoarded. Left to fester or dragged into the light of day. We are all formed in part by our secrets.
"Are they sleeping?"
Yes, they're both asleep."
"Ok. I think it's coming. There it is."
"Park over there. What do we do now?
"You go first. See which one you want. Then, I'll go and get it. And don't slam the door."
She gets out of the car, and we add another secret to the pile. Another secret from our children.
She returns. I leave and return. And then we start. And we try to remain quiet. But it's hard.
"MMmmm. Oh my, that's good. Do you like it? I knew you would."
This secret is not a fun one like the whereabouts of their Easter eggs. Or a temporary and necessary one like how you behaved in college. This secret is quiet. Insidious. Like radon in your home.
This . . . is secret ice cream. We've been doing it for about two--two and a half years now. If we're out and about on a long drive, and the kids fall asleep, and we happen to be anywhere near a decent ice cream place--and in New England they are legion--we make a detour and we stop and we indulge. We each get a cone and we trade bites and make quiet yummy noises and if the kids stir, we tell each other "Shhh. Shhh!"
I never felt the least bit guilty about it. Then the other day I mentioned it to a (childless) co-worker and she reacted like we'd been gambling the money from their college fund (which they don't have anyway). I told her that the secret eating of ice cream wasn't the worst part. I told her that the worst part was when they wake up and I breathe in their faces and go "Smell that? That's Mint Chip, Bitches!"
For my wife and me, it's just . . . fun. A special treat just for us. A way to acknowledge each other and our relationship. A way for us to say that we used to like going for ice cream before the kids were here, and we'll still do it when they're gone. A tiny bit of sweet romance for us to share between the demands of the day and the demands of our children.
Maybe someday we'll tell them about it and we'll all have a good laugh. Maybe not. The Peanut takes her ice cream pretty seriously. Then again, it would be pretty cool to have my epitaph read "He was shivved with a waffle cone." Either way, the summer is here. Beach trips abound and the children have the hardest time staying awake in the car after a day spent playing in the sun. But the adults don't find it that difficult. And there are sundaes left to conquer. Quietly.