If there’s one thing Robert Carlson loved more than his wife and his camera, it was a good milkshake. Specifically, an old-fashioned vanilla milkshake from Steak and Shake, which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Midwestern chain restaurants, is a drive-through that sells burgers and makes a mean shake. It's busiest around 11 p.m. on Friday nights after football games. It is and probably will be open indefinitely.
Now, this entry isn’t some sort of miraculous revelation about life, but it is an appreciation of its smaller, sweeter aspects. In one of my emails, I asked my great grandfather why he liked milkshakes so much, and he relayed a memory of drinking them as a boy. His family would go to an aunt’s house for dinner on the weekends. On the way home, he would pass a dairy farm that made the greatest vanilla shakes (until Steak and Shake came around, of course). If he were lucky, his parents would give him a nickel to spend on a vanilla shake. A milkshake was truly a treat.
Writing this brings backs memories of my great-grandfather and a milkshake. My uncle and I brought him one after a Garrison Keillor concert he insisted we attend together. My mom would pick one up and stop by the condo after dropping my siblings and me off at school. I bought him malt from Kilwins, another Midwestern gem, for his 97th birthday. After homecoming, my grandma picked me up and brought me to Dunkin Donuts where we purchased a large coffee for myself and a large vanilla milkshake for him.
I think that everyone has a “something” like a specific sent or a pair of shoes or perhaps they always wear a striped collared shirt. My great grandfather’s "something" was a vanilla milkshake, an unchanging beverage and a reminder of simpler times. It makes me wonder if whenever he took the first sip of a milkshake, the cool, vanilla taste transported him back in time to when he was a boy under a great, blue Midwestern sky in the ubiquitous farmlands of Iowa.