by SHARISSE TRACEY SMITH
For some, the Bring Your Own Cup Day at 7-Eleven this past Saturday night was an opportunity to get a lot of Slurpee for $1.49. For others it was a chance to see how much brain freeze their minds could actually tolerate (I wouldn’t recommend it though). In many cases, it was simply a chance to have a few minutes of fame on social media via likes and retweets if their unique cup was a favorite. But, for this west coast girl-turned-Army wife and longtime Slurpee lover—39 years to be exact—the frozen flavored drink has become a symbol of home since I married into the military nine years ago.
In the 70s when my family first relocated to Southern California from the east coast, the 7-Eleven chain became very familiar. The convenience store was located near the bus stop where my mother and I waited for the RTD. On my first day of kindergarten, my mother reluctantly purchased a small Slurpee for me after a successful day at Children’s Village. “Please, please, please, Mommy,” I said, “I earned it. Kindergarten is harder in California.” I’d just watched a teenaged girl walk out of the store. She slurped on what looked like a mountain of frozen cola, swirled in a perfect shape with a twist at the top. My mother laughed. She knew but I didn’t know she knew. You know how moms do it. The young girl scooped her Slurpee with the red straw, and I swear it looked like she winked at me. Like a, “you better get you one,” wink. My mother, also having difficulty adjusting to the move, agreed that school was more difficult on the west coast—especially on the first day.
I fell in love with the cola-flavored frozen drink and frequently asked her to buy them, which she would do if I earned good marks in school. As we moved around, 7-Eleven was a staple, and as I got older, I would walk by myself to pick up a Slurpee along with a copy of Right On! magazine. This nine-year-old loved Slurpees and the full colored posters the magazine offered. I used to spend my allowance on the latest Barbie dolls at a local stationery store next to 7-Eleven. I always separated the money for my Slurpees to make sure I didn’t spend it on extra outfits for Barbie. In my teens I drove between two stores. I mixed my upsized drink with cola and cherry. I never got into the suicides that all my friends liked. I’ve always stuck with more plain drinks—simple. When we moved to Duarte in the late 80s, a 7-Eleven was once again within steps from our door. My love of Slurpees continued and followed me into adulthood. I never
realized how much the drinks were a part of my life until I had to leave California.
Despite the fact that our family has never been stationed outside of the United States, I always felt further away from home without my Slurpees. Every duty station prior to Washington State has lacked my favorite frozen drink. Trips home meant two things: first, a drive thru visit to my favorite hamburger spot and then my Slurpee.
Now that we are stationed near Seattle, home feels just a little closer. The first thing I noticed off the plane were all the 7-Eleven stores that lined the streets and the signs from the freeways. It was raining and gray but the surroundings looked more familiar. I said, “Slurpee time,” to my 71-year-old mother, who now lives with us. “It’s just like when you were a kid, Sharisse,” she said.
“Almost, Mom,” I offered. “But, I’m getting closer to home.”
Sharisse Tracey is an Army wife, mother, educator and writer. Follow her at @SharisseTracey.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.