I would ask who doesn’t love the ice cream man, but I have a friend who grew up in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Ohio and moved to the big city thinking that the whole ice cream man thing was some kind of urban myth. However, having grown up in a large city, I know quite well what the tinny sounds of “Pop Goes the Weasel” coming from the next street over means. Likewise, do my kids.
When I was a kid, the merry-go-round style music meant dropping everything and running out to the tiny front lawn to see if the truck would turn down our block or turn the other way instead. When it did turn onto our block, the truck seemed to take forever to journey from the corner all the way down to our house nearly at the other end. If my brothers and I were lucky, my parents would shell out a few bucks for pushups, ice cream sandwiches, or screwballs. Screwballs were generally my favorite…sweet pink sherbet stuff at the top with a blue or green gumball at the bottom.
If we were at my grandparents’ house, we never got stuff from the ice cream man, but we ended up with something way cooler instead. My clever grandmother would treat us each with a plain, old store-bought popsicle that she’d surreptitiously take out of the freezer when we weren’t looking, but she’d always tell us that the ice cream man just hopped over the backyard fence to bring it to her, and we somehow always just missed seeing him. It worked like a charm every time. To us little kids, it was like almost seeing the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. Whenever we played in my grandmother’s backyard, we’d look up every now and then to see if we could get a glimpse of the fence-jumping ice cream man. Of course we never did. But there was never any disappointment at not being able to get choose from the ice cream man’s wares. Ah, kids…
As a parent though, I admit that I often dread the plinking music of the ice cream truck. For what I spend on one ice cream bar from the extortionist…er…I mean, ice cream man, I could turn around and spend that same amount on an entire box of cold, sugary junk food from the grocery store. In this age of debit cards and such, I rarely carry cash on me, and I swear “the man” knows it. On those days it seems like the truck circles our block four or five times, and I have that damn nursery song stuck in my head all day. I’m sure he’s trying to teach me a lesson. On the days when I think I’m being clever and specifically set aside cash for treats from the ice cream man, we somehow miss him.
Sometimes I am really lucky, and when the truck does come by, Tobin is too preoccupied with his toys or games to notice or bother asking to get anything. On the days he does notice, it is inevitably approximately five minutes before dinner will be served, and my chances of getting him to then eat his dinner peacefully, or even at all, is nil.
This past Sunday though, the ice cream man actually had absolutely perfect timing for a change. He happened to appear when Tobin was sobbing his eyes out inconsolably because his friends were leaving from a play date, and he didn’t want them to go. When I pointed out the ice cream truck, and told him he could get a treat, his whole little face immediately lit up, and for a moment I remembered the pure joy I once felt as a kid waiting for the ice cream man, or the anticipation I had hoping to catch the ice cream man with his box of treats as he leapt my grandmother’s back fence.