Chasing down the ice cream man

My dog didn't do this, but would have if she could have.
A few weeks ago my son (who is 10) exploded into the house after he’d been playing at a neighbor’s house. He was hot, sweaty, and angry. I braced myself for a report of some heinous act perpetuated by his friends, or an account of a tragic injury.

Instead, he just yelled, “The ice cream man left me!”

Apparently he had heard the magic tinkling of bells, and had done his best Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible impression to catch the van full of carcinogenically dyed goodies. He had run through other people’s yards, jumped fences, skirted ditches, all to watch the ice-cream man round the corner and disappear from our neighborhood for the day.

He threw himself into a chair, still angry that the ice-cream man hadn’t seen him, hadn’t stopped, that he had wasted all that effort getting to him for nothing. For NOTHING! Man, childhood is SUCH a rip off.

Today, *I* heard those magic tinkling of bells. I said to my daughter, who is 4, “Hey, do you hear that?” She shrugged, and said, “It’s just probably a flute.” I realized that she didn’t know what it was. At 4 going on 5, she had no idea what those sounds meant, the experience that awaited her. I debated for a second, knowing that if I never told her, my life as a parent would be easier. No running after the van, no scrambling for loose change or extra dollar bills (yeah, in case you were wondering, it doesn’t cost a quarter anymore), no angry tantrums when they inevitably miss the ice-cream man (or when spare change or dollar bills just aren’t to be found. I doubt the ice-cream man takes American Express.).

But I quickly made up my mind, leaned down so I was at eye level with my preschooler, and whispered, “That’s the ICE-CREAM man! Let’s go–we have to catch him!”

So I grabbed the pile of loose change that has been collecting in a random box on my bookshelf (please tell me you have one of those, too), and raced outside to see if I could eyeball the van. And glory be–YES! There he was, just a block down the road, stopped at a neighbor’s house with kids crowding around. My dog had followed us out of the house, and at the sight of all the kids, took off as fast as her fat legs could carry her. I started running too, and said to my daughter, “QUICK! We have to catch him!” as I ramped up to a sprint.

As I ran, I yelled and waved my hands, making as much noise as I could. Some people thought I was running after my dog, and they restrained her, but I shook my head and shouted, “No, STOP THE ICE-CREAM MAN!” They laughed, and told the guy to wait. I caught up to him, panting, and slumped over his window, out of breath but happy. I waved my daughter to catch up, and as soon as she saw the big ice-cream icons on the van, her eyes widened and she shouted, “It’s ICE-CREAM!” She picked out one of the biggest, most colorful ice-cream pops on the board, and was practically vibrating with excitement as the man handed it to her. I then told her we had to pick one for her brother (who was playing again at the afore-mentioned neighbor’s house), and she picked out one just as big and just as colorful for him. We went and picked him up at his friend’s house, and my daughter handed him the ice-cream. He grinned and said, “Where did you catch him?”
We told him the whole story as we strolled back home, the kids licking their ice-creams, the dog trotting along next to us.

And I thought as I listened to my children and walked with them that this was a perfect childhood moment, a snapshot that I could have never created or planned out, but felt blessed to be a part of. I love moments like that. I store them up, letting them fill my soul. And I hope and pray that when my kids think back on their childhoods, that these good moments will stand out in sharper relief than the bad ones where their mother was short with them, or mad, or sad, or just plain didn’t get it done.

And I know I’ll have to remember this moment in August, when chasing the ice-cream man has gotten really, really, REALLY old.

What moments in your childhood do you treasure?

About Heather O.

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

16 thoughts on “Chasing down the ice cream man

  1. We didn’t have an ice cream truck in our neighborhood. I didn’t actually see a real one until years later when I lived in Oregon and had three kids. I only bought them ice cream from it once. The price for a popsicle was way too much and the repeating “La Cucaracha” song, off key and off beat, drove me nuts.

    My childhood summers were made up of neighborhood baseball games where the neighbor kids play until a dispute over a call happens, running through the sprinklers, and racing bikes down our street.

  2. Admittedly, I never lived in a real neighborhood so the ice cream man didn’t come to our neighborhood. But I still think it’s a beautiful idea. Hmmm . . . my memories– the ones I look forward to sharing with and passing on to my kids– are climbing trees, hiking in tall grass, pumping my legs as high as I could to feel like a bird in the sky, water fights, lying in odd places and odd positions to read books, shoveling as a family and then jumping in the piles of snow . . . and on and on.

  3. I have a friend who told her kids the ice cream man stole kids so her kids always ran the opposite way. My childhood memories are sitting at my driveway trying to sell KoolAid and always drinking more than we sold.

  4. To avoid being bugged every day, my kids were allowed ice cream on Fridays. It was always fun to watch them come running into the house so excited every Friday.

  5. You are nicer than us. We told our young son it was the “music” truck and he spent a few years thinking it was just a truck that drove around playing music!

    We only hear it faintly occasionally where we live now and only on Sunday nights, so it’s not much good.

    I actually have childhood memories of the mosquito sprayer truck coming down the street and running in the house to get away from the chemical fog!

  6. We didn’t have an Ice Cream man in our town, but my summer memories are riding bikes with all the neighborhood kids, the boys setting up ramps and jumping over trash cans like stuntmen…the one guy…cannot remember, but he jumped over the grand canyon or something. Every boy wanted to be him. Us girls rode our bikes and just watched.

    Staying out until the sweet night smells came out of the ground, letting us know it was bedtime. The races to get to the pool to spend hours there, getting water logged and sunburnt. Living in a very small town, we had a run of it.

  7. We have 3 or 4 ice cream trucks that come through our neighborhood the second it gets remotely warm. We don’t chase after any of them. It freaks me out a little (too many crazy people I don’t trust and a daughter with no stranger danger awareness is not a good combination). I am saddened by the loss of a once magical event.

    My childhood was filled with exploring the woods around our house in Washington. We made forts, caught frogs and other assorted critters. We spent hours and hours on bikes and the trampoline. We got so dirty and I’m so glad that my Mom let us. In my mind dirt and fun good hand in hand.

    I can’t give my daughter the woods. We do find other ways to get dirty. We find puddles to jump in and look at the bugs. She loves the bounce-a-rene too. She is finding her own bits of magic to fill her childhood and I get to go along for the ride.

  8. Fireflies in the twilight; balancing on old oil barrels like gymnasts (we could “walk” on the barrels all over the place); and yeah, the ice cream truck in Long Beach. :)

  9. During the six months that I had extreme migraines I debated sabotoging the ice cream mans truck so it would never work again. That music is so annoying! And you can buy a whole package of popsicles for the price of one from the truck.

  10. There were no ice cream trucks where I grew up either. I guess that’s why I’m not sentimental about them. We allow our children to buy ice cream 2-3 times a summer (just so we don’t have to hear them whining about ice cream every other day). I think the ice cream truck is a nuisance.

  11. LOVE. Best moment in reading this was imagining your little girl’s eyes when she realized it was ice cream. We only got to eat from ice cream trucks when we drove down to the city to visit family. I felt deprived…which is probably why I chase down the ice cream man now with equal vigor :)

  12. I LOVED this post. In my mind it had little to do with the icecream truck and much more to do with actively creating happy memories with our children. As a mother this resonated with me

    “And I hope and pray that when my kids think back on their childhoods, that these good moments will stand out in sharper relief than the bad ones where their mother was short with them, or mad, or sad, or just plain didn’t get it done.”

    Thanks for sharing your good moments. It inspired me to try and make some more with my children!

  13. A friend of ours who despises everything about the ice cream truck (especially price gouging marketing aimed at children and setting them at odds with their parents – talk about the devils snare) finally decided to get rid of the problem once and for all.

    A few summers ago he decided to stock his own freezer with the coveted treats. Now whenever he hears the tinkling bells, He hands out a hit of ice cream at cost. (I think his sons manage the business now and they charge a bit more than cost but not anything close to what the ice cream truck gets away with.)

  14. Summer nights in Alaska, where no one wants to go to bed since the sun doesn’t go down. Basketball in the street at midnight, hiking, lying on towels in the driveway trying to suck out some heat. And the rare, once a year, times when my mom would let us get something from the ice cream truck.
    Lovely!

  15. I vividly remember trying to pay the ice cream man once with a check. I was probably about 7, had seen my mom use checks at the store, and thought all it took was scribbling on a piece of paper that I’d carefully cut out in a rectangular shape to look just like the ones she used. I was perplexed when he didn’t accept it! I am sure I thought it was because I wasn’t an adult and added that to the list of injustices of being a kid. I bet he had a good laugh later that night at my expense.

    And my children didn’t know what the ice cream truck was for the longest time until my friend bought them all ice cream at the park one day behind my back. Now I’m ruined forever. But they still don’t know that the ride-on toys outside of the grocery store actually move if you put in a quarter (or 4), and I’m going to keep it that way for as long as possible! Although I do like your point that sometimes it’s worth it.

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