Thursday, February 27, 2020 -
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An emergency!

I had to make an “emergency” run the other night. No, it was not for Band-aids, Neosporin or hydrogen peroxide. There were no wounds.

It was for popsicles.

With the sticky, humid, sweltering New York summer, sometimes you just need to reach for that instantaneous cool-down.

What can be better for that than an icy popsicle?

The truth is, among my circle of friends, the word “popsicles” has come to mean code for when you are forgetting a word that is at the tip of your tongue.

A few years ago, while ice-skating at a relatively high speed, someone bumped into me, knocking me down. I sustained a concussion and broken arm. In the aftermath, when my word retrieval was a bit off, one day I was randomly on the phone with a Trader Joe representative about a particular product, when before hanging up I asked, “and what about those summer bars — will you be bringing those back?”

“Summer bars?” came the quick but perplexed response from the representative.

“You know, those lime flavored rectangular icy treats you lick, with an oval bleached wood stick protruding from it that you hold them with?”

“You mean popsicles???” the representative countered, confused.

The second I heard the word I burst out laughing, and we both started laughing.

“Oh yeah, of course, popsicles,” I finally responded through giggles, and explained about my recent word retrieval challenges.

And that’s how among my friends “popsicles” turned into code for blanking on a word.

All joking aside, when it’s 95 degrees out and you are boiling hot, popsicles are no joking matter. In all seriousness, they truly can be an instant savior.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the boiling hot summers of Israel, where ubiquitous popsicle freezer stands can be found on random street corners, and eating them in summertime — artikim or shilgonim, as they are called — is practically as common as drinking a glass of water.

Add to that a little gimmick one of the ice cream companies had going to get you to keep buying them. I don’t remember whether it was Snowcrest, Tene Noga, Rio or Vitman, but one of these brands had a promotion going that sure kept the popsicle purchasing on a roll. Some of the popsicle sticks would be engraved in brown lettering with the much sought after phrase, “you won a free popsicle,” followed by a smiley (the original modern emoji!).

What you wouldn’t do for the joy of receiving that elusive popsicle stick saying you won a free popsicle. You’d be the envy of your friends. More than that, the joy of feeling you won something, like you were lucky enough to pick the right, magical, popsicle, had us all hooked. The tension as the popsicle man reached deep inside the freezer to select one for you (or if you were lucky enough to get to reach into the freezer yourself) was palpable. Even before you unpeeled the popsicle wrapper you’d start squinting to see if you could see the words through the flimsy wrapper. And you always, but always, unwrapped it bottom side up, so the first thing you’d see is whether it was you who were destined to win the yearned for popsicle stick. Will those words appear on your popsicle stick? This was the question hovering in the air.

We’d all keep purchasing popsicle after popsicle in the hopes of being the “chosen one” to experience the thrill up your spine from spying those three words (in Hebrew), zachit be-shilgon chinam.

That, my friends, was how our weekly allowances were drained (plus from the upgraded cornetto cones we’d get, too).

It is such a sweet memory, the simple joys of being a child. We didn’t have much, yet with a popsicle in hand we felt we had the world.

The flavors I remember best were the multi-colored red, green and orange, called “traffic light.” Then there was the purple grape flavor, which was a novelty since back then grape flavored products were rarely kosher. Then, for those Friday afternoons and Shabbat afternoons, when you were dressed in Shabbat finery, it was always lemon or pineapple because those popsicles were white, and wouldn’t leave a stain on your dress.

So you see, I was indoctrinated young. The memory of those popsicles is engraved in me as strongly as those three words were engraved in the lucky popsicle stick. Summer bars, popsicles, paletas or artikim, whatever you call them, are, for me, a summer essential.

In my book it beats a fan, air conditioning, swamp coolers and any other form of cooling strategy.

It is also so fun and easy to fill your own rounded popsicle molds at home. Just pour in a delicious beverage you love or puree any of your favorite fruit combos and, voila, you’ve got yourself adorable homemade popsicles lined up waiting for you in the freezer.

But for those times when your freezer is on empty, I’m grateful for the 24 hour mini-market nearby, to which I can make emergency popsicle runs.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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