Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Ice Cream Man

Fancy Schmancy's post yesterday reminded me of one of the true joys of my Florida childhood -- the Ice Cream Man.

At least once a week, on those sticky hot Florida summer days, he'd slowly cruise through our little neighborhood, jolly music playing loudly. Every kid on the block would run inside and beg mom and dad for money, or raid his or her piggy bank, or check under the couch cushions, and then chase frantically down the street to catch the truck. The driver was invariably friendly and would stop when he saw the kids running behind him. We never missed the ice cream truck. (Well, maybe once that I can remember, when I had a sprained ankle and couldn't run.)

We'd run up to the truck and stare with wide-eyed awe at the pictures of all the yummy treats plastered all over the side of the truck. Then we'd debate the merits of the bomb pop versus the fudgsicle or the orange cream or the sno cone.... We'd dither and hem and haw and finally make a selection, then turn over our fistful of loose change and wait to hear the magic verdict on whether the money was the right amount -- "Great! Here's your popsicle!" or "One bomb pop, coming up!"

The thing is, we always caught him, and it was always enough money, and the juicy or creamy or icy treat was always awesome. I don't remember ever being disappointed by the ice cream man.

When I first moved to my Arizona neighborhood, I discovered that the ice cream man was a little.... different. First of all, he cruised through the neighborhood at approximately 35 miles per hour.

Keep in mind, the speed limit is 25.

Before we had kids, my husband and I heard him coming and tried, a couple of times, to run inside and get money and catch him, but he was long gone before we got inside -- forget finding money and coming back outside to catch him. Heck, he barely slowed down for stop signs; I don't know why I thought he'd stop if he saw some grown-up chasing after him. For over eight years, I never saw him stopped with kids around the truck selling ice cream. We became convinced it was a front for a bunch of drug dealers, or (less paranoid interpretation), that he was merely driving through our neighborhood on the way home and wasn't actually interested in selling ice cream here.

So when our daughter was a toddler and saw and heard the truck, we told her it was the "music truck," and that he just drove around the neighborhood playing music for everyone. Being a toddler and trusting her parents as the authority on everything from the Easter Bunny to Santa Claus, she bought that story hook, line, and sinker.

For a couple of years, whenever she heard the ice cream truck, she'd say, "Mommy, listen! It's the music truck!" And I'd say, "Ooh, yes! Isn't that nice?" and smile, and we'd both go on about our business.

And then for a couple of years, he didn't even come through the neighborhood. I had forgotten about the ice cream / music truck.

Then one day when our son was about 3 and our daughter about 8, we were standing outside with the kids, talking to some neighbors, having just returned from the store. I had my bag; my husband had his wallet. We both had cash on us. Our daughter said, "Mommy, listen! It's the music truck!" Our neighbors looked quizzically at each other and, apparently deciding we were the worst parents on earth and that our kids needed to learn the real truth, said, "What?!? Oh, you mean the Ice Cream Man! Ooh, let's stop him and get some ice cream!"

And our deception was revealed. Our daughter was clearly annoyed with us for deceiving her. She looked at me like I had just told her there was no Santa Claus. (Perhaps that was the moment she figured that out?).

And then the truck stopped. The kids saw all the ice cream illustrations on the side of the truck and began squirming with excitement. They hemmed and hawed and then made their decisions: A bomb pop for the little guy; chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream bar for his big sister. (The neighbors, those sneaks, didn't even buy anything at all!)

I have to admit, it was a sweet moment, and brought back good memories of my own childhood and the joys of the ice cream man. (And the man actually sold us some ice cream! Amazing! It's not a front for drug dealers! The truck has real ice cream!! This is good to know!)

...But now every time the kids hear the music, they beg for money.

** sigh **


SkylersDad said...

They have recently started coming back to our neighborhood.

Nan said...

Around our neighborhood we have pushcart vendors in addition to the ice cream trucks. I always wonder just how many miles the guys with the handcarts walk each day as they loop through the various apartment complexes selling frozen treats -- and I also wonder just how long stuff stays frozen in those portable coolers when they're relying on dry ice to keep it cold and the temps here in Atlanta start pushing 100.

Fancy Schmancy said...

I've never lived in a neighborhood that didn't have an ice cream truck, except once way out in the boonies. They have like 15 trucks per child in our town! Good times!

Jan @ Struck by Serendipity said...

"Music truck" is such a great line. I'll have to use that on my future kids. :)

Bella said...

what a great story! I still love the ice cream truck! speaking of ice cream, I think I'll go get me an ice cream sammich out the freezer! yum!

Johnny Yen said...

We still have ice cream trucks in my neighborhood.

I don't usually find Eddie Murphy very funny, but he has a hilarious bit on the ice cream man.