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On Ice Cream Cups and Fortune-Telling

An old memory reminds an incoming corps member of the importance of play, whimsy, imagination, and storytelling. 

By Sarah Jane Kline

March 23, 2021

Sarah Jane Kline is currently a senior at Davidson College finishing out her degree as a double major in Africana studies and English language and literature while pursuing honors in creative writing. She is excited to teach in an elementary school classroom in Charlotte this coming fall as a member of the 2021 Charlotte-Piedmont Triad corps!

When I think back to when I was an elementary school student, I rarely remember multiplication table quizzes or spelling bees, but let me tell you the story—the simple, sweet memory—I recall often.

Picture a sunny, late summer afternoon in Knoxville, Tennessee. We first graders ate in the cafeteria at the same time as other lower school classes, making for a boisterous and sweaty meal time.

It was lunch on days like these when, after cycling through the lunch line, my six-year-old self would reach over and tug my best friend’s shirt, signaling to her what I spotted at the end of the line. Ice cream.

The styrofoam ice cream cups with the slim cardboard lids required me to peel off the top to get to the usually freezer-burned, but always delicious, vanilla treat. The cups sat on ice in large plastic tubs.

This lid was the cause of our excitement, the kryptonite of our lunchroom experience, the celebration worthy of finishing my helping of chicken pot pie at 11:15 in the morning.

It was a well known fact that my classroom teacher could read our futures from the imprint the ice cream made on the lid after it was peeled off. Running up to him, holding out our ice cream lids with their strange circular markings, we would interrupt his lunch and beg him to tell us our futures—a skill we admired but could hardly believe. We couldn’t lick the lid clean until he had seen it.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I asked my teacher to decipher my future from the bottom of my ice cream lid. As a soon-to-be elementary school teacher, I take with me this memory to remind myself of the importance of play, whimsy, imagination, and storytelling in creating a fun, happy environment for younger students.

Especially in our current moment, remembering and telling stories like mine gives me hope that my students will take with them simple, sweet memories from my classroom and one day share them with others. August 2021 can’t come soon enough