Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Scream, You Scream...

When we lived in Michigan, our house happened to be the main stop for the neighborhood ice cream man. We lived in the middle of a long stretch of houses and dozens of children would run from both directions all summer long to buy ice cream in front of my kids. I never bought. $1.75 for a Popsicle seemed extreme to me and so I would let my kids choose what they wanted from the pictures on the truck and then drive around the corner to Big Box Mart and buy them a WHOLE box for the price I'd have paid the ice cream man for just the one. This seemed to satisfy the kids enough.

I, however, felt a little bad about it...or sad, or something, mostly because I have fond memories of the ice cream man from my own childhood. I remember playing in the backyard with my siblings and all our neighborhood friends and hearing the music call us to excitement. There almost always were neighborhood kids in our yard. Nine children in one house was something of an attraction. One was always guaranteed a play mate at our house. A neighborhood girl my age was known to ask for me, then my sister if I was busy, then the younger brother and even younger brother in turn, all the way down...unless my mother found some excuse why the whole family couldn't play today. But often someone could play, and so she kept coming... and many others, too.

But I remember...

...summer days spent riding on bikes or roller skates through elaborate chalk cities we'd draw on many of the neighborhood driveways and how we'd even connect them through the road and ride freely throughout. I remember hop scotch and four square and jump rope. I remember comparing tans, running through the sprinklers, wearing Dr Scholl's and knowing there was corn on the cob for dinner. I remember hearing the music from the ice cream man and running with all the neighborhood to buy ice cream and candy. But I think it was nickels and dimes we had in our pockets--at least I don't remember my parents taking out a second mortgage so that we could buy ice cream.

When my husband and I moved with our children to Connecticut we saw and heard the ice cream man far less often, anyway. Also, I learned a funny trick from my older brother where you ask your kids if they "hear the tuna fish truck? Would you like to run over with those other kids and get some tuna fish, too?" Very handy trick, that. But it really only works on children under three years old. Older children have more developed remote candy detectors and they resent your joking about their thwarted desires. My children have learned that we don't buy from the ice cream man. We just don't. We get plenty of ice cream all summer long, but we don't ever get it from the ice cream man.

But I remember...

...buying, as a kid, enough candy from the ice cream man to save for summer nights. I remember wearing breezy pajamas and reading Beverly Cleary books in the long evening light while sipping water from a plastic mug and savoring Jolly Ranchers.

Then today, when we were on our way to the pool an ice cream truck parked out front. The children had run ahead while I gathered belongings. As I came up the rear, I could see them standing back from the truck, though eying it with a certain guilty curiosity. I remembered the cash in my pocket left over from yet another blueberry picking trip earlier in the morning.

"Would you boys like an ice cream?" I asked. All five lit up and looked surprised that I had any idea what they had been thinking. "Ya-ya-ya!" Nicholas shouted for them all and we walked to the truck. There was a small selection of ice creams for $1.00, but I was surprised to find that in order to buy one of those pops that looks like Spider Man's head, for example, you must pay $2.50 a piece these days. Luckily, my children have simple tastes and no special desire to eat Spider Man's head and so they were delighted with the $1.00 menu. A "Great White" lemonade shark, a "Cotton Candy" striped pop, and a few "Bubble Gum" swirly cones were ordered. Inside the pool gates I asked Simeon, "Is it good? Do you like it?"

"Yes," he said looking a bit confused, "Would you like some?"

"No, no...it's for you," I said.

"Ok," he laughed, "It's just that, that was the fourth time you asked me if I liked it."

Ah well, I don't think my five dollars purchased a wealth of childhood memories for my kids today, but I do think it eased my conscience a bit.

12 comments:

Johane said...

I guess buying ice cream from the Ice Cream Man today makes up for the picture of lemonade yesterday... ;)

Although it may not be a wealth of childhood memories that you bought today, I'm sure it may well be a long remembered one still. The best childhood memories aren't the ones you buy though - their like your friend who came and visited with you, then your sister, then your brothers... The best memories are in the games you played, and the friends you played with...

Cheryl M. said...

Years ago my husband and I (notice we were both involved in this mean scheme) told our little boys it was a "music truck." And they believed us until the day the neighbor kid ran up with his money and then walked over eating his ice cream.....;) Tonight while eating dinner I heard the ice cream truck coming up the street and said, "Hey, Listen to the music truck." Ha Ha Ha! :)

Suzanne Temple said...

That's funny Cheryl. I hadn't ever thought of that.

scmom said...

Sadly I have my kids convinced that the ice cream man in committing highway robbery. And that the ice cream is stale. And my homemade popsickles are waaaay better. Luckily he doesn't bother with our little cul-de-sac. What a mean mother I am!

Alice Gunther said...

I loved reading your childhood memories, Suzanne, because they reminded me so much of my old! Especially those ubiquitous Dr. Scholl's! Do you remember how they would sometime shift as you were walking or running, and you'd step on them and hurt the center of your foot? : ) : ) : ) Perhaps that's why they went out of fashion!

You are always making great memories for those boys!

Kristen Laurence said...

Oh, what great fun! You know, sometimes I will pay extra for such occasions, just to support the neighborhood business owners. They need the money more than *Nestle* or *Klondike*.

My girls don't yet know who the ice cream man is, even though he comes into our cul-de-sac every evening. Sshhhh..... :)

Cheryl said...

I liked reading about your memories. I remember 4 squares and jump rope. I loved Chinese jump rope too. And roller skates and biking around our pretend New York City. I think the ice cream truck is way too expensive, but my dh likes to buy it for the kids sometimes. They love it. I think it does help make summer special and memorable.

ryan m. said...

Yeah, I share your conflictedness about the ice cream man. And I also wonder: why is ice cream the only food that gets driven around the neighborhood in a music-playing truck to attract children? Why not a French Fries Man, or a Hot Dog Man, or a Chicken Nuggets Man? Imagine the chaos.

Anyway, I'm not sure why you needed to wear foot-care products during the summer, but I am glad to hear that your boys have no special desire to eat Spider Man's head.

(Btw, apologies for the non-gender-inclusive language above.)

;-)

Suzanne Temple said...

Ouch, alice, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! How funny.

Anonymous said...

I remember the ice cream truck from my childhood. My parents usually didn't buy either. I don't have bad memories because of it. It's just didn't do it.

Luckily for me, the ice cream truck usually comes here during dinner or at bathtime so we don't rush out. I don't like to pay that much for ice cream either. That's not to say my kids have NEVER had ice cream truck treats. Just not very often.

The truck that comes by here also has an voice that calls "H-e-e-l-l-l-o-o-o!" along with the music to get your attention. You can hear it with the windows closed & the AC on.

Ronda

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

What a lovely gesture and surprise for your boys!

Anonymous said...

When my son started learning to walk every time he'd hear the ice cream music he would dance, yes, stop whatever he's doing and dance. We're all tickled pink. He was like that until he learned to walk. He was so cute.

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JK

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