Back in the 1960’s, when I was growing up behind a chain link fence in small town suburbia, the highlight of a hot lazy summer afternoon was the jingle jangle of the ice cream truck.
Our ice cream truck was called Rainbow King. It came at the right time for a mid-afternoon snack, and it navigated our block like its tires were coated with molasses.
My brother Mikey and I were trained like Pavlov’s dogs. The minute we heard the truck’s sweet siren call, we’d race to the front gate and wait impatiently for our grandmother (or our mother if she was home) to magically appear with her change purse.
We always ordered Italian ices; cherry for me, blue for Mikey. We savored the ices to the last drop, scraping to the bottom with our wooden spoons. The best part was turning the ices over. The syrup would collect into a solid mass of icicles that hurt my teeth when I sucked it.
Sometimes my grandmother would buy Italian ices in the supermarket, but they just didn’t taste the same. I’m not ashamed to admit that getting ices from the ice cream truck is one of my fondest childhood memories. In a world with a future so uncertain, this was one thing we could count on. It never let us down, and it made us feel good.
I grew up, got married, and had kids of my own. For many years we lived across the street from a community park. A new and improved ice cream truck was a permanent fixture. It blared raucous music like a Black Sabbath concert, offering a smorgasbord of unfamiliar names. I could have sent my kids to college on what I spent on the ice cream truck.
Eventually, we grew tired of the park, the noise, and the traffic (on weekends it was like the Indianapolis 500). Sadly, the ice cream truck was collateral damage. The kids didn’t clamor for ice cream from the truck anymore. They were too old and way too cool. Haagen-Dazs at the mall was the new rage.
But like elephant pants, skinny leggings, and platform shoes, everything comes back into style eventually, and the ice cream truck is no exception. My grandkids know all about the ice cream truck thanks to YouTube. They know the Mister Softee theme by heart. For Halloween one year, my older grandson dressed as – you guessed it – an ice cream truck.
It’s a replay of my childhood, and it’s a role I’m happy to play – except that the ice cream truck doesn’t visit our block. Oh, I know the truck is around. It taunts and tantalizes. I hear the familiar music wafting through the trees, distant like the noon firehouse siren. But like Godot, it never comes. I find myself starring in a crappy “Outer Limits” episode. Somehow, either by accident, design, or purpose, my street is a no-ice-cream-truck zone. No greater calamity (besides braces) can befall a kid.
I soon discover that I’m not alone. In my town’s private social media group, other parents, grandparents, and caregivers excitedly report sightings of the elusive ice cream truck. It’s as if they were tracking down Sasquatch.
I learn that, depending on where you live, it’s either feast or famine. The ice cream truck never comes, or it doesn’t come at the time we want it to; or worse, when it does come, it flies down the street like a stunt driver in a “Fast and Furious” movie.
We thought we’d gotten used to living without the ice cream truck. Truth be told, no one has to scream for ice cream in our house. Our freezer is full of ice cream in a variety of flavors; hell, I could have my own ice cream truck!
So recently, when I heard the jingle of the ice cream truck, I didn’t get excited. But this time, the music didn’t fade away. It got closer. And closer. Could my ears be deceiving me? Was this like objects in the rear view mirror?
I raced to the front door just in time to see an ice cream truck roar down the street as if in a high-speed pursuit. Not only was it reckless and dangerous, but the fool came minutes before my grandson was due to be dropped off by the school bus.
I was livid. Whatever this ice cream truck was selling, it didn’t seem to be ice cream. Then roughly 15 minutes later, we heard him again – but this time, instead of coming down our block, the truck decided to go on the opposite side of our cul-de-sac.
I grabbed the grandkids, a fistful of money and ran to the edge of our driveway, convinced that the truck would have to come back our way. Once again we were disappointed. Mikey, my eldest grandson, grimaced: this was the “bad ice cream man.” We trudged back inside the house, disappointed.
Unfortunately, the ice cream truck wasn’t done toying with us. I’d finally gotten the grandkids calmed down and occupied when once more the truck blew down the street. I grabbed the money and flew out the front door, waving and screaming like a banshee in my flip-flops, once again, to no avail.
Now I was really ticked off. On the community page, when I recounted my tale of woe, another parent chimed in that the ice cream man had also roared past her, oblivious to her frantic cries.
Did this deter me? Hell no! I was more determined than ever. Every time I heard the ice cream jingle I stood by the front door.
And then it happened. Like Moses parting the Red Sea, one weekend the ice cream truck appeared. It was about to barrel past our house when my son-in-law, taking one for the team, sprinted like an Olympian to flag the driver down. It almost felt like a citizen’s arrest. Mikey finally got his “Cherrymatic”.
So this is what it has come to. The uber-dependable ice cream truck of our youth is now a catch-me-if-you-can experience. Hopefully, the guy will remember that there’s a kid here to stop for in the future.
You know, on second thought, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.