She had Melba sauce, and I had coconut and honey.
That's how it went each and every time my mother took me to Forty Carrots, starting a few years after the place opened in the mid 1970s.
A crowded, cramped cafe a few floors up in Bloomingdale's -- that high-gloss paean to modern fashion -- Forty Carrots was very small, and very New York. Filled with mothers and daughters, solo businesswomen, and older ladies in side-by-side pairs, Forty Carrots couldn't accommodate trios or four-tops. There were no private tables: just a smattering of high seats along a curvy counter. Maybe it was L-shaped, maybe it was U-shaped, maybe it was shaped like a double helix. The shape didn't concern me, but the frozen yogurt did. The frozen yogurt was why we came, pilgrims from our lives as a working single mother and her wide-eyed, school-aged daughter.
I'd get the same thing each and every time: a towering swirl of plain frozen yogurt with an avalanche of coconut and a downpour of honey. My mother was equally consistent: Melba sauce for her with a heaping side of walnuts.
I'd eat mine, then dip my spoon into hers. She'd eat hers, then dip her spoon into mine.
We never fought at Forty Carrots.
There was no mother-daughter drama, no tense silence. The world dropped away, our rapport easy, simple.
At no point did we realize, spoons in each other's bowls, that two years after the millennium would turn, she'd leave not only Forty Carrots but me and the rest of the world behind.
Eleven years after her death, in 2013, I was in New York, a place I still visit once or twice each year. I'd signed my Yogurt Culture contract and wanted to eat as much yogurt as I could while in town. So much new yogurt to explore.
But one thing first.
I called my friend Jason, who lived in New York. We'd been friends since college.
He met me at Forty Carrots.
I ordered the Melba sauce myself.
Words + Photograph © Cheryl Sternman Rule