Spring is officially here. Summer may even be officially here, a lot earlier than usual, and I’m not just saying that because it’s been warm enough that I can go out in my bare feet. What really sealed the season for me was the first appearance of the ice cream truck in my neighborhood which I normally associate with summer but, hey, if the ice cream truck is going to come around this early then maybe it’s a spring thing too, and maybe that’s better because I’m always willing to spring for some ice cream. Yes I can go to the store and buy ice cream anytime, but there’s something special about getting it from the ice cream truck. I distinctly remember the first time I got ice cream from an ice cream truck, although technically it wasn’t ice cream. The truck came up our street, which was a cul-de-sac that had kids in more than half the houses, which so we were the proverbial fish in a barrel. In fact we were better than the proverbial fish in a barrel because the fish will keep swimming around whereas we were hooked as soon as the truck blaring “Do Your Ears Hang Low” or maybe something by Edvard Grieg came rolling up to us and we ran out into the street and didn’t care that we had bare feet because we all went barefoot so much we had feet like Hobbits, but that’s another story. I was still too young to read and my mother came out with me because I was also too young to have money, and I looked carefully at all the options, and when it was my turn I pointed to a picture of a big-nosed red and blue troll wearing a crown, because if there’s one thing kids love it’s the Troll King from Peer Gynt, and I said, “I want that kind please.” And an older kid sighed and said, “Duh, that’s a snow cone,” because older kids are jerks. So I didn’t actually get ice cream, I got a snow cone, which was the most disappointing experience of my life up to that point. Admittedly I was four so I hadn’t had a lot of disappointments, but if you’ve ever had a snow cone from an ice cream truck you know it’s basically just ice chips and colored water, although it did come in a neat little paper cone that had a picture of the Troll King on it that I enjoyed looking at until it dissolved and I was left with a runny mess of slightly sticky red and blue water.
And then I got older and could go to the ice cream truck by myself and use my own money, which was cool because I’m pretty sure that was the first time I could buy something by myself without my parents standing over me, and I’d always get a strawberry ice cream bar that I’m pretty sure had a picture of Solveig on its wrapper. It was also really interesting to me because I heard that in exotic places like New York you could call and order exotic foods like pizza and somebody would deliver it right to your home. We couldn’t get that, or maybe we just didn’t, but the ice cream truck was the next best thing. In fact it was even better because it was ice cream and you didn’t have to call anyone.
One day when a younger cousin from another state was staying with us the ice cream truck rolled up to the cul-de-sac and we went out to get ice cream. And my cousin said, “This is the same ice cream truck that comes to our house. He drives all around the world every day.”
I sighed and said, “No he doesn’t. There are different ice cream trucks in different places and no one can drive all around the world.” And then I told him there was no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny and that if his baby teeth didn’t fall out fast enough the Tooth Fairy would come into his room in the middle of the night with a pair of rusty pliers because, duh, older kids are jerks.
I feel really bad about that now and I feel like I’ve gotten some karmic comeuppance because when I heard the ice cream truck a few days ago I went springing after it but could only make it so far because I was in my bare feet and my feet, like the rest of me, have really gone soft. And there are no kids that I know on the street so the ice cream truck doesn’t stick around. So what I’m saying is, can I borrow anyone’s kids? I promise not to destroy their childish innocence even if they believe the same ice cream truck travels the world, but I will tell them the bitter truth if they ask for a snow cone.