Two Soft-served Cones, Please. by Elva Anderson, PhD

Growing up in a small rural town, I felt a strong sense of family, community, and safety.

We had farmers’ markets, county fairs with greased pigs, hayrides, pie eating contest, cake walks, musical chairs, berry picking, Sunday mornings worship, and family meals around the table.

As a child all appeared to be well.

One evening after work, I drove home, and I told my five-year-old brother I was going to treat him to a soft serve cone at the local Custard Stand. Now mind you, at the time, it was the only fast-food place in the county.

Upon our arrival to the Custard Stand, my brother and I walked up the window and stood at the counter to order our soft-served cones. The lady said with a stern straight face, “we don’t serve y’all”. At first, I thought it was prank for we had been there many times with our mother. I repeated the order and again was declined. She closed the window, turned around, and walked to the other window to take another order.

I thought to myself, “What did she mean by that?!” I felt so enraged that I wanted to shout at her, yet we had been raised to respect our elders.

Getting in the car, I told my brother not to worry and that mom would take care of it. When we got home, I retold the story to mom. And she immediately got on the rotary phone to call the Custard Stand. We could overhear my mom announcing her name and then saying, “My daughter and son were just there, and someone told them that they could not be served, why not? What is going on?” Then we heard her say, “Yes, the girl and the little boy are my children.” Mom listened and then said, “That’s not right,” and hung up the phone.

We followed mom into the kitchen, and mom said, “She said she did not recognize you and mistaken y’all for migrant workers’ children.”

Photo of 2 cones of soft serve ice cream
Soft-Serve Ice Cream by ALPHA (flickr.com). CC license.

As we stood there in the silence, I thought to myself, the “migrant workers?!” you mean the hard-working men and women at the peach and apple orchard? The men and women who stand in the sun all day picking peaches and then have to walk to their homes at night? Even if we were their children, why can’t their children enjoy ice cream?

I remembered the look on my mother’s face—of hurt, my brother’s face—of sadness, and more importantly the way I felt. Angered, disappointed, and repulsed that two children wanting ice cream and being turned away due to where they are from and/or the color of their skin. And what’s ironic, and it still doesn’t make it right, is that we had been mistaken for another marginalized race.

There are many personal stories that I can share, yet I share this one. For over the years things have changed, like the woman, that refused to serve us, no longer walks on this earth; my brother and my mother no longer walk on this earth, and the Custard Stand has been permanently closed, yet racism, hate, bias, continues to walk this earth.

And as I walk this earth, I hope my story will open up a sense of awareness and compassion of how diverse we all are. Hopefully in our diversity we can advocate for inclusion and mindfully proceed with care and kindness.


Elva Anderson
Elva Anderson, PhD is a freelance writer and a visual artist located in Washington, D.C. Her work has been exhibited in New York City, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., as well as Los Angles, Calif. In addition to being a spoken word artist, a master gardener, mother of two adult children, Elva also works with children and adolescents utilizing the expressive art therapies.

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One thought on “Two Soft-served Cones, Please. by Elva Anderson, PhD”

  1. What a powerful piece of writing! It is the sharing of stories like these that helps chip away the division and uncertainty we face in this world. At the end of the day, we all love soft served ice cream and we all wish – and deserve – to be respected. Thank you for sharing this piece of your life, Dr. Anderson.

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