view from central park

A popsicle emergency!


I< had to make an emergency run the other night. There were no wounds; it was not for Band-aids, Neosporin or hydrogen peroxide. It was for popsicles. In the sticky, sweltering New York summer, sometimes you just need to reach for an instantaneous cool-down. What could be better for that than an icy popsicle?

Among my circle of friends, the word “popsicles” has come to describe a situation where you forget a word that is on 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 a broken arm.

In the aftermath, my word retrieval was a bit off. One day I was on the phone with a Trader Joe representative about a particular product, and 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.

“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.

In all seriousness, when it’s 95 degrees out and you are boiling hot, popsicles are no joking matter. They truly can be an instant savior. I grew up in the boiling hot summers of Israel, where ubiquitous freezer stands can be found on random street corners, and eating popsicles in summertime — artikim or shilgonim, as they are called — is as common as drinking a glass of water.

One of the ice cream companies had a little gimmick 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 kept the purchasing on a roll. Some of the popsicle sticks were engraved in brown lettering with the much sought after phrase “you won a free popsicle,” followed by a smiley.

What you wouldn’t do for the joy of receiving that elusive stick! You’d be the envy of your friends. More than that, the joy of feeling that you had won something, that you were lucky enough to have picked the correct, magical popsicle had us all hooked. The tension as the popsicle man reached deep into the freezer to select one for you was palpable. Even before you unpeeled the flimsy wrapper, you’d start squinting to see if you could see the words on it. And you always unwrapped it bottom side up, so the first thing you’d see is whether it was you who had been destined to win. Would those words appear on your stick? That 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 of spying those three Hebrew words: zachit be-shilgon chinam.

That, my friends, is how our weekly allowances were drained.

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 multicolored red, green and orange, called “traffic light.” Then there was the purple grape flavor, 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 they 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, they beat fans, air conditioning, swamp coolers and any other strategy.

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

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


Copyright Intermountain Jewish News