Monday, August 24, 2009

Ever get a tune stuck in your head? I recommend extreme violence.

Summer is almost over now, and soon to follow it is the ever-beloved ice cream man. As much as I hate being hot and sweaty (well, of course y'all know a Southern girl doesn't actually sweat... we glisten, but bear with me here I'm telling a story) there's just nothing like that tinny out of tune warble that only comes at this time of year to get your heart pumping and your mouth watering especially on those smothering wet blanket no breeze make you want to smack the devil dog days of summer.

I loathe the ice cream man. Blasted evil ice cream man; harbinger of summer, bearer of all that yummy cold creaminess, pied piper to all things child-like and fun. I would wring his neck with the cord to his crappy music box if he'd only stay still long enough. There I said it. When you can pick your jaw up off the floor, feel free to read ahead. I'll tell you why.

It started when we lived in Murfreesboro. It was the first time my children really conceived of what that weird truck they kept seeing was, when the correct synapses snapped together and the lights went on in their tiny heads. A man driving around in a brightly colored truck blasting kid music and giving out ice cream? Oh life is good when you're a kid. The only problem after that epiphany was keeping enough cash available for just in case said miracle man were to come driving by our home. Well, that and the waiting.....and waiting......and waiting..........

I'll never forget that last spring we lived out there. My kids heard the music coming often. We lived in a popular area and heard it daily, but we kept missing it. This one particular day the truck was so close but not quite up to our street. Seeing their chance, my little chickens ran inside to plead with me please mama please mama oh please he's almost here. I hurriedly grabbed the wallet and we ran out to wait. It was such a sweet time watching them debate over all the things they might find in that truck and what they might choose for themselves. They romped around in anticipatory bliss. I relished that enthusiasm and found myself starting to muse along with them.

Then there he was in all his glory, coming up at the corner, wailing canned joy out of the speakers on the rooftop while my ecstatic children whooped and cheered. The moment of truth had finally arrived. A month of waiting was about to pay off... that is until he turned the opposite direction driving away from my broken-hearted children and out of the neighborhood. Words can't describe the sorrow of that day.

This was the beginning.

For the next two years, my kids hoped for the elusive ice cream man. They ran out often.. sat in the grass watching day after day. After moving here where there are many more children I thought for sure this dream of theirs would finally be fulfilled. For a time he would just appear out of nowhere every few days...right in the middle of dinner. We'd be halfway through the mashed potatoes when that little tinkle would sound. I would have let them out regardless (I'm not totally heartless) but he always drove by so fast we had no prayer of ever getting out there in time. We know the back of that truck by heart now. Weeks of this ensued. I thought since no one else on our street ever let their kids out during dinner that the guy would get a clue and switch it up. He did finally. Yep. Changed it to lunch time instead. Then he just stopped coming altogether.

I'd thought my kids had mostly moved on from this unrequited desire until just recently. We were standing in the doorway when that old familiar tune that we hear even in our sleep(Frere Jacques) that we've heard so many times before showed up out of nowhere. (Seriously, Clara and I both hear that song even when it's not there, especially during dinner.) We all just knew it was meant to be. For once I had cash to give them. It was exactly our family's designated snack time. It was the last day of summer before school. The stars were aligned. My kids whooped with joy in the front yard listening as that music drew ever closer... and closer...and closer and passed our street by with nary a glance. Twice. If I could have conceivably caught up with him, I'd have gotten the baby up, thrown them all in the car, hunted him down with my Mama Bear SUV and run his sorry butt over. Instead I watched my faithful kids sit in the sweltering sun grasping their tattered bills for hours for hours hoping he'd come back before finally giving up and coming in for dinner. My son Sam said the blessing that night. I thought my heart would never recover when I heard him so sweetly pray for the ice cream man to safely come to our house. Then, and almost every prayer since.

Every day thereafter as my kids have sat on that porch just waiting; I have searched the Internet, the phone books, and every resource I can find on where to find a phone number or store front or some way of getting one to drive out here at a designated time to no avail. I have also spent more time on my knees by myself praying for the ice cream man to come and then just begging for a little boy's prayer to be answered.

Today it was. Sam never doubted. And let me tell you all is right with the world.