Diabetes Memory #749
When: A hot summer night in the early 80's
Where: A little beach town along the southern shore of New Jersey @ a magical place called the Diary Bar.
When I was in grade school, summer nights meant hearing the ocean and playing flashlight tag in your friend’s back yard. It meant having "summer friends," which were literally friends that you'd only see in the summer, when their parents brought their family "down to the shore."
Summer nights meant going to your friends (both summer and regular) around the corner and playing and staying out until 11 pm, and having their parents walk you home.
And a hot Saturday summer night, almost always meant that you and your all your friends (and their parents) would walk a mile down the road to the Dairy Bar. A magical place where you could get soft cones, dipped in chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, or the ever-elusive "crunchies" a sort of rice crispy concoction that they were always running out of.
As an 11-year-old with diabetes, I looked forward to that mile walk with a mixture of excitement & dread. I always had to get my mother's OK to go, and that would usually involve a phone call do see how the days "clinitest-ing" and activities had gone.
9 times out of 10, I was allowed to go, and get my small vanilla soft serve or hot pretzel.
I was able to be with my friends and have fun. Still, it was stressful because:
1. What if my mom said I couldn't go?
2. What if my friends or my friends parents didn't want me to go because of the whole 'diabetes" thing?
The particular summer night that I'm referring is burned in my memory.
I'd been given the OK to go, so I set off with a gaggle of neighborhood kids and two sets of walking down the mile stretch of Ventnor Ave towards Dairy Bar Nirvana.
The walk was filled with lots of laughing and lots of noise, and everyone was having fun.
We finally arrived at the Dairy Bar and after what seemed like forever, I was allowed to place my order.
Me: Small plain vanilla soft serve cone, please.
And with that, I was told to wait at the next window, and that's exactly what I did.
And again, I waited patiently for what seemed like an eternity of watching my friends get their shakes,frozen chocolate bananas on a stick, or ginormous cones dipped in sprinkles and or Jimmies, chocolate fudge and anything else they could think up in their sugar filled heads.
FINALLY, I was handed my cone.
Me: Um, that's the wrong cone; I'm sorry, but I asked for "plain cone", not a sugar cone.
Window Chick (who was like, maybe 15) : No, you didn't.
Me: Yes, I did.
Window Chick: You can't change your order after you paid for it.
Me: I didn't change my order, I asked for plain vanilla cone.
Window Chick: Sorry, I can't change it now.
Me: I'm not allowed to eat a sugar cone, I would never say sugar cone, I always say plain cone!!!
I could feel my face get red and my eyes tear up - not the way a cool 5th grader going into 6th wants to act. Especially in front of her friends, two of which were a whole year older!
My friend's dad came over and asked me what was wrong.
Me: They gave me the wrong order; I asked for a plain cone - I'm not allowed to eat a sugar cone!
My friends dad asked to speak to the manager and said something along the lines of: I know we had a big order, but you have to understand, I'm walking with 8 kids here, and one of them is a diabetic, so talk about dealing with pressure! Kelly's a challenge! So we really need a plain cone.
My face turned even redder and all of a sudden I felt like a big burden and a total loser.
And at that very moment all I wanted to do was go home and catch the last half of "Fantasy Island," and never, ever go over my friends house again.
I felt like outcast and weird and I wanted to be anywhere but where I was.
All I that kept going through my head was that I was a good kid, not a bad one - and he knew that! I'd played with his daughters every, single summer since, well forever!
Together we put on shows in their garage,went to the movies and played at the beach every day, so why was their dad referring to me as a challenge?
We got my plain cone and all of us started walking. I didn't talk much and I kept choking back the tears. The soft serve didn't go down so well and I threw it out halfway home.
I thanked my friends and their parents and walked in my front door, where I was greeted by my mom.
My mom: How was the Dairy Bar, did you have fun?
Me: it was good.
But I didn't want to talk about it. I went upstairs, took shower, got changed into my pj's and sat out on my front porch. I looked up at the stars and the moon and made a thousand wishes that night, all of them the same.
My wish was simple. I wanted to be normal & just like everybody else.
And then I started to cry, and I didn't stop for a very long time.
I still get a red faced every time I remember that night, and that red faced little girl who felt so ashamed because all she wanted was to be just like everyone else and enjoy her plain cone vanilla soft serve.
And I'm still mad at being called a challenge - even though I know he didn't mean it in the way my 11 year old brain thought he did.