If the Lord had given us all the bread and fish we could eat, along with that hungry crowd of 5000 near the Sea of Galilee, it would not have done any more for our faith in Him than what happened on that hot August day of my childhood. After all, early in the spring, we had seen my father and a friend netting in the bounty from an immense run of Lake Erie smelt, on the freezing cold beach at Port Stanley. The fish were so plentiful that they had to be carried home in big galvanized washtubs— the kind angel-haired babies bathed in on old farm supply calendars. After dividing the booty like two happy pirates, Dad’s share of silver treasure was handed off to my mother to put in a chest in the back kitchen. (Chest freezer, I should say.)
Mom was not thrilled to be put in charge of so much stinky fish, as her overactive gag reflex seemed to suggest, so she guillotined their heads and tails off, rather ruthlessly, between a big wooden cutting board and a butcher knife. “So dull you could ride to Chicago on it!” she told Dad more than once. The beheaded tailless ones, she gathered together like so many silver bullets— about three dozen to each butcher paper packet. These she stacked in big Humpty Dumpty potato chip cans laid on their sides, and placed into the freezer. The Lone Ranger might even have mistaken them for a stash of ammunition (if he had used an enormous gun!) Of course, I thought it was rather unlikely that he’d be checking for anything suspicious at our house, especially not in the freezer!
So you can see how another big windfall of fish on a hot August day would not necessarily have whetted our appetites, not with one of those Humpty Dumpty tins still lingering in the freezer. And while we would all readily admit that the loaves and fishes incident was the kind of miracle that would impress — feeding so many people from so little, and with basketfuls of leftovers afterwards— we rather hardheartedly held back our awe.
If we had ever had the nerve to ask for something really special, it would have been ice cream. But just like that crowd of 5000, we never did ask. And yet Jesus still sent us the desire of our hearts anyway— Maple Walnut, Chocolate, and Strawberry! The deliverer was none other than the least angelic of our limited childhood acquaintances, our hard-drinking eccentric Uncle Archie, who was known to haul even pigs to the sales barn in the back seat of his rusty old Ford.
His wife, my very religious Aunt Flossie, had just gone out to get the mail and, Lo and Behold, what did she find? Not manna or quail— but four big brown cardboard tubs of frosty creamy delight, the kind they only had in ice cream parlours! Three of these she sent around the corner to our house with Uncle Archie, who fortunately had put them on the front seat, rather than in the back for the trip. Apparently, when the ice cream delivery man from the Glencoe Dairy had come around the corner a little too quickly, the back door of his delivery van flew open and out rolled the Heavenly treats!
When Aunt Flossie called the Dairy to let them know that they should send someone back to pick them up they told her to just keep them. She held back only the tub of vanilla for herself, and then I’m fairly certain that she called her family members to come on over for cake and ice cream. Obviously the cake she baked would have to have been Angel Food!