It was a warm day, warmer than it had yet been that season, and we walked in the front door tired and sweaty. “Can we have ice cream?” the children asked me, and I conceded that yes, if ever there was a time for unscheduled ice cream, this would be that time. I trudged up the stairs and asked them what type of frozen treat they would most enjoy from the selection currently available in our freezer.
My daughter gave me a reasonable answer, but Edward, who is 5 and sometimes does not know how things work, said “I want one from the ice cream truck!”
With a knowing smile on my face, I said to him, “Edward, did you see the ice cream truck today?”
“No,” he said sadly to me, and I walked smugly to the freezer to get him an actually possible snack. “…but I heard it!”
I stopped short. “You heard the ice cream truck?” He nodded. “Are you sure?” He nodded more vigorously this time, and I sighed, closing the freezer door. “Okay, let’s go check.”
Stepping out once more into the hot sun, I strained my ears for any trace of the telltale tones of “It’s a Small World,” but I heard nothing. “Are you sure you heard the ice cream truck?” I asked. “I don’t hear anything. Why don’t we go back inside and get a popsicle?” I turned to return, but before I hit the door another neighbor and her brother popped outside with money, looking desperately around. “Hey guys, what’s going on?”
“Where is it?!” they asked. “Where’s the ice cream truck?”
“I don’t see it anywhere,” I was sorry to inform them. “Did Edward tell you that it was here, because I told him that we could have ice cream today, and he said he wanted something from the ice cream truck, but I don’t know that it is actually around today…”
“No, we heard it!”
“You did?” And then, wafting away on the whisper of the breeze, I heard it. The faint and distant tinkle of a faux-calliope. The ice cream truck!
I ran to the sidewalk and tilted my head towards the sound. It was coming from the West. Ruby and Edward were both with me, as well as the two neighbor kids, and now three more children had appeared from out of the woodwork. They tried to ask what was happening. “SHHHHH!” I hissed. “Quiet! Listening! Ice cream truck!”
Like a bloodhound of sound I perked up my ears and began slowly walking down the street, scanning the horizon with my eyes as I tried to keep the musical scent with my ears. There were at least 8 or 9 children with me now, all following in silence as we hunted for the great white whale of summer. When we had gone about a block and a half, the sound stopped. And so there were three choices.
The truck could have gone into the parking lot ahead of us on the right, stopping at the far end where there is a daycare/pre-school full of children. It seemed unlikely that these kids would be able to get ice cream from the truck, since they had no parents or money with them, but it was possible. Or the truck could have turned to the left and gone into the neighborhoods. The children were scattered farther about in there, but they would have access to piggy banks and parents’ wallets. A much more likely target. Finally, if the truck had gone straight, down the hill and over the railroad tracks, it would have hit the park, where it had a chance of finding a bunch of kids at once, or no kids at all. This too seemed a likely route.
I couldn’t take the trail of children all the way down into the park without letting all of their parents know, and I didn’t see any trucks in the parking lot area. Our best shot was that if the truck had gone into the neighborhoods, it might come back out again, perhaps up a block of two. I decided to turn around and walk back, betting it all on option #2 and trying hard to hear that music again. That was when we saw something. A white boxy truck slowly coming up the hill over the railroad tracks. “Is that it?!” the children cried out.
I heard no music, but it was the right size and shape. On the other hand, it could be the local FedEx truck. I was not getting my hopes up. But then I turned and saw that, literally right next to us, three feet away, the local FedEx truck was pulled over to the side of the road and the driver was eating a sandwich. Whatever was coming up the hill, it wasn’t the FedEx truck. “I see it!” Ruby shouted out joyously. “It has a CONE on it!” And so it did.
As soon as the truck saw a mob of shrieking children jumping upwards of fifty feet into the air, the music switched back on, loudly and immediately, and that truck pulled right over to the side of the road. This was not going to work. Waving hard at the guy, I motioned that he needed to come closer. We were not going to cross the street and walk down to him, he needed to come to us! Inching his way a few more feet in our direction, the driver again pulled over to the side of the road, but again I waved him on. Most of these kids did not have any money, and I was not paying for all of their treats at ice cream truck prices. I needed to get Mr. Ding-a-Ling into our parking lot.
Finally I just had to step out into traffic and direct the truck into Kid Central Station, flapping my arms like I was signalling an airplane. Eventually, the truck pulled slowly into our parking lot, surrounded by a swarm of circling children on bikes, scooters, and winged feet. I had done it. I was a local hero. The children put me up on their shoulders and paraded me around the block singing songs of my praise, or at least they would have if they had not been buying and eating ice cream. But I knew that they wanted to do it, which is actually just as good, if not better. And my children got what they wanted, and I got a Choco-Taco, and summer officially began one afternoon in the beginning of May.