When I was but a wee lad, the coolest place in town was Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, a deserteria that featured a number of obscenely gargantuan sundaes that they literally dared you to eat. I attended countless parties at Farrell’s, and my folks would take my sister and I there on occasion. I remember the place as perpetually packed full of kids and families, with bells ringing and sirens wailing and gongs forever being stuck, all in recognition of some momentous event (a girl’s sixth birthday) or another (someone ordering one of their famous “Zoo Sundaes”).
All of the local Farrell’s abruptly vanished in the late 90’s. Apparently the founder left, the chain was sold, and the new owner’s plan to turn the franchise into nondescript family restaurants (rightfully) ended in disaster. But I didn’t care. By that time I was in High School, and Farrell’s no longer held the appeal it once had. Still, I had fond memories of the place, and vividly recalled how exciting it had been to go there when I was younger.
Shortly after graduation my friend got a job at the local mall, in a store adjacent to where the local Farrell’s had resided. Both his store and the new business that occupied Farrell’s old building had entrances and windows facing the parking lot, so, as he worked, he could see people arrive in their cars, park, and walk toward the mall.
This was two, maybe two and a half years after Farrell’s had gone under. But about once every other month, he told me, he would see a car park nearby, the doors fly open, and a gaggle of insanely happy children tumble out. They would race to where the Farrell’s used to be, their smiling parents ambling behind. The kids would eventually leave my friend’s field of vision, though he could still see the laggard parents chatting amicably as they moseyed toward the entrance. Then, inevitably, one of them would glance up — perhaps in response to a shout from of the children — and the smile on his or her face would falter and fade. Then they too would disappear from view.
A minute or two would pass. Then the family would reappear, the children slouching and crestfallen, the mother anxious and apologetic, the father perhaps carrying a sobbing youngest on his shoulder, as they solemnly trudged back to the car.