My oldest child is our learner child – we hope we’re making our biggest mistakes with her, the firstborn of our two daughters, and that we’ll get more right with her younger sister.
Because she is our learner child, we’re always going some way with her that we’ve never gone before. These days, we are going the way of teenage dating.
I blame it on marching band. My daughter and Mr. Tuba Player were stationed in close and constant proximity to each other all during practices for last fall’s marching band show. The next thing I knew, his name was popping up with noticeable regularity in my daughter’s daily updates—but always with “my new friend” attached. As it turned out, I should have been more worried than I was (insert learner-child mistake #327), because the next thing I knew, he was asking her to Homecoming—and to be his girlfriend.
Before I knew it, my firstborn and Mr. Tuba Player were officially dating, and his varsity jacket was hanging on the back of her desk chair.
All of which was okay and within the realm of normalcy for a high school junior—until he made her cry. Which he did last weekend, when he said he’d come over to “hang out” but never showed up. Or called. Or texted. Or messaged. Or anything.
By the time we’d gotten to the evening of that day, both my daughter and I were a mess.
Radical spontaneity was necessary. Fortunately, earlier during those long and tormented hours of waiting, someone had posted about the “French fries and Frosty” phenomenon: namely, dipping French fries into a Wendy’s frozen chocolate “Frosty.” It didn’t woo me because I am a French-fries-and-ketchup fiend, but I could see the appeal: the whole hot/cold, sweet/salty, creamy/crispy contrast deal that everyone knows is a thing in the food world.
Which is how, at 10 o’clock that night my daughters and I came to be driving along country roads lined with melting snow banks. We were wearing our pajamas, headed toward the drive-through and French-fry-and-frozen-chocolate consolation.
We blasted music on the CD player and sang along and when we pulled up, we put in our order and picked up our hot/cold, sweet/salty, crispy/creamy comfort combo. My older daughter dipped her fries into the frozen chocolate; I ate mine separately, but happily.
When we got home, my teenager tagged me in a post on Facebook: “Because late night runs to Wendy's for a Frosty and fries are the best.”
And just like that my daughter felt better. I felt better. The combination of spontaneity and French fry/Frosty comfort had worked its magic.
At some point, Mr. Tuba Player will fade out of my daughter’s life. But that sweet/salty memory won’t. And someday soon, I think we’ll make a run like that again. Not because—God, hear my prayer–anyone’s heart is broken, but because we’re always feeling something that goes perfectly with French fries and frozen chocolate.
Frozen Hot Chocolate
(In case you need to make a Frosty approximation at home. For learner-child mistakes and other life crises.)
1 cup crushed ice
½ cup very cold or partially frozen milk or (even better) evaporated milk
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup, plus more for serving
¼ cup (or more) frozen non-dairy whipped topping
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or thawed non-dairy whipped topping for serving
Whir together the ice, cold or partially-frozen milk, chocolate syrup, and vanilla in a blender until slushy. Pulse in the frozen whipped topping just to blend. Serve in a fancy glass topped with whipped cream or thawed whipped topping and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Serves one, but can be doubled or tripled or quadrupled, depending on how many people you’re comforting and how severe the crisis is.