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It’s almost time for 31-cent Scoop Night at Baskin-Robbins, a yearly event that brings our neighborhood together in a way like nothing else.

I can’t remember the boys and Ron going to 31-cent Scoop Night two years ago, but I heard all about it. Ron loves a bargain almost as much as the boys love ice cream, so the combination was too good to resist.

My guys talked about that family outing so much that I soon grew to regret that I didn’t go along. I made up my mind that I wouldn’t miss out the next time 31-cent night came around.

So last spring, I drove Ronnie, Tommy and as many of their friends as we could legally squeeze into the car over to the ice cream shop minutes after the big event kicked off at 5 p.m.

We thought we would beat the crowd by getting there so early, as did every other kid in the neighborhood with a parent around to drive them.

Jimmy had snuck on ahead of us, riding his bike there the minute he got home from school. While Tommy, Ronnie and I waited and waited for our ice cream, they stood around lapping theirs up in front of us.

Naturally, Jimmy and his buddies had taken the three-scoop limit to the max. The only people at 31-cent night who don’t enjoy three scoops of exquisite, cheap ice cream are the salad-eating, Diet Coke-pounding "other" moms.

I was surprised at the number of kids and parents waiting in line who I had never seen before. After living in the area for almost two years, I thought I knew most of the kids in our neighborhood.

Going to 31-cent Scoop Night made me realize just how big our neighborhood really is. I should have figured this out from the number of elementary schools within a few miles of our home.

Our annual gathering for ice cream reminds me of making gingerbread houses when we lived in San Diego. Every December, there was a neighborhood adjoining ours that took their holiday spirit to a whole new level.

Some of the kids went to school with Jimmy and Tommy, which meant we were invited to venture down the hill and make gingerbread houses with them. All I had to bring besides my boys was a bag of candy or some frosting.

When we arrived, I could not believe the number of people gathered to make houses nor could I get over the huge supply of decorations. It became obvious that this was an annual event people had been preparing for.

Nobody noticed or cared if we sampled the gingerbread house makings; we were all just there to have fun.

And that’s what we’ll be doing this week at 31-cent Scoop Night as we take time out of our oh-so-busy lives to hang out with our neighbors and have a little treat. Too bad it only happens once a year.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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