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I grew up in Carroll County. After high school, I went to college in Ohio, then lived in Fells Point and Hampden for a few years. When kids came along, my husband and I knew Carroll County had everything we were looking for to raise a family.

I was nervous about moving back because I was afraid I would constantly run into people I knew from my younger years. Actually, I run into more people who knew my mom, or who recognize my children from their picture in this paper, than I do people who remember me from my childhood.

There are some really good things about living in Carroll County again that just occurred to me. For instance, Hoffman's Ice Cream.

I know, you were expecting me to talk about parks, strong schools, the wonderful library system or perhaps even the fact that in spite of its growth, Carroll County still ranks nationally in terms of its preservation of agricultural land.

No, I want to talk about ice cream. When I was a kid, warm weather and Hoffman's went hand-in-hand. I have memories of being a young child and standing in a long line and then sitting outside to eat my mint chocolate chip ice cream in a sugar cone.

Then, when I was a little older, we moved right down the street from Hoffman's.

I can't believe all of my teeth didn't fall out from cavities. My siblings, cousins, friends and I would walk there daily to spend any money we had on 5- and 10-cent candy. Then in high school, I worked at Hoffman's, serving ice cream and writing "happy birthday" messages on ice cream cakes.

As a young adult, during the summer of my mom's chemotherapy and radiation treatments as she battled breast cancer, I swear it was Hoffman's vanilla treats that got her through. It was the only thing she could eat constantly without getting sick, and it helped keep her cool and hydrated. Fast forward almost two decades and now I am the one promising my children that if they are good, we can get Hoffman's ice cream.

Now, lest this sound like too much of a commercial, the point I'm making is that there's something special about watching our children live experiences that we lived.

I feel a warm connection to my parents, only now beginning to understand the peace that can be found in the little moments that life throws our way -- such as watching your children spoon orange sherbet into their mouths while they're chasing lightning bugs in the field behind Hoffman's.

It's not just Hoffman's. I love taking my children to Baugher's because I have early memories of getting ice cream there, too (yes, we ate a lot of ice cream) and picking apples at the orchard.

And growing up, my parent's loved taking the family to Bullock's for dinner. I recall standing in line, then staring up at the covered wagon -- which is still in the same spot! -- as my parents filled their plates.

All these places had good food, but what they offer me today is even more important -- the connection they offer me to a time gone by. With any luck, one day my children will be sitting at Hoffman's, watching their children eat (and wear) an ice cream cone, with a sense of peace and security that comes from feeling at home.

Kym Byrnes writes from Finksburg. E-mail her at kymbyrnes@gmail.com.


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