What could possibly be bad about an ice cream truck, for heaven’s sake?
Yesterday, one of the neighbor’s kids had a birthday party. At about 10:30 in the morning, the plucky refrain began to ring out over the neighborhood – and I automatically started going, “No, no, no, no, NO, no, NO, no, no, NO!, NO! do not ask me again, the answer is NO!”
It saves time, compared with waiting for each of the four Denizens to rush up to me begging, pleading, asking one more time, then once more, then dredging up legal precedent and informing me that it was Saturday and etc. etc. etc.
“It’s too early,” I pronounced firmly. “There will be ice cream at the party. And furthermore you haven’t had lunch yet.” Ha-HA! Beat THAT if you can…
So the very nice ice cream truck man waved cheerfully and went on with his route.
But he is not stupid. Oh no. He is not stupid. He saw the excited children. He noted the jumpy house on the neighbor’s front lawn. He said to himself, I should come back here in a few hours…
Sure enough, a few hours later, at that perfect 2:00 timeslot (well after lunch, well before dinner), I once again heard
That lovely man pulled right up with his big beaming smile, threw open his window and sat like a skinny t-shirted Santa Claus as approximately 6,200 children flung themselves wildly toward his van.
Our court is often a good score for him. We have four, the next door neighbors have three, there’s one more across the street, and of course That Thing where each child will constantly have one or two friends over. Even if one family is saying absolutely not!, it’s a fair bet somebody else’s parents are handing out a five dollar bill and putting in their own order. Don’t forget my triple chocolate coffee sundae! (The ice cream truck has evolved a bit since I was a kid…he has about forty kinds of ice creams in that [I kid you not] minivan, a few of them definitely geared for the parents. Like I said – not a bit stupid, our ice cream man.)
Yesterday, though, was a bit on the epic side. Not only were there the usual about twelve, there were all the kids of the extended family-next-door over as well.
All kidding aside, I think there were something like thirty children and eight parents crowding around that truck. Which is funny considering they’re coming from a birthday party where there will be, in fairly short order, cake and ice cream.
But there’s just something about that music. It has a way of reaching down and touching something inside. Even children who don’t really know what’s going on will catch the excitement.
And after that first time, when they get it, well. I cracked open the garage door and called out, “Hey, Captain Adventure – the ice cream truck came back.”
He flew out the front door leaving a boy-shaped hole in the air behind him, hollering, “Waaaaaaaaait, Misser Isss-cweam! I wannit de kind wif da stick an da orange and da pink kind!!” (In English: A Push-Up.) He was so excited he was jumping wildly up and down, shaking his hands and putting in his order over and over and over again.
Ah, the excitement of the ice cream truck. There’s really nothing quite like it. Orders were placed. Money was exchanged. Change was forgotten by overly excited children. Wrappers exploded. The music faded into the neighborhood as, smiling and waving and calling, “See you next time!” out the window, the Magic Man trolled slowly away to other courts and streets, to other crowds of children waving their dollar bills triumphantly in the air as he approached.
And in our court, rapt silence as all the children applied themselves to the serious business of consuming their watermelon bombs, their snow cones of many colors, their strawberry-crunch coated ice creams, their cookie sandwiches and missile pops and fudge bars and Spongebob sherbet.
Lots of things have changed since I was a kid…but the ice cream man remains a symbol of the end of winter, a reason to do your chores and get your allowance first thing Saturday morning, a blissful sea of options in a world where choices are seldom yours to make.
And the sound of that music, flowing thinly out from worn PA speakers, still strikes fear into the hearts of parents. Oh, NO! Not THAT! Quick! Hide my wallet! Bring the children inside! Bar the doors! Close the blinds! Turn on fans! Turn on the TV! Here, kids, take a Wii remote! No, don’t look out the window, look at the video game…!