I was out in the garden yesterday afternoon. Weeding. Hating it. Jill was puttering around in the Ranger ATV dumping some branches she had picked up around the yard. She rolled up next to our garden and said, “What do you want from the ice cream man? I hear him coming up the road.”
Suddenly it was a Saturday afternoon in 1963 and I was standing on Grumman Avenue. Shirtless and barefoot. As I looked at the guys around me, I could see Chris Bowers, Ricky Bowers, Donnie Brown, Steve Moss and Danny Ives. Somewhere nearby are my brother, Eric, David Adams, LeeAnn Brown, Sue Brown and definitely my dog, Chipper. We’d just heard the Pinky Dinky Man’s truck coming, blaring carnival music through a busted speaker. I can remember throwing my homemade skateboard in the ditch beside the road and heading toward my house at a dead run, screaming, “ICE CREAM MAN, ICE CREAM MAN!” I would hit the door screaming for money, mom would tackle her purse, dig for change and hand it over. The entire transaction from cool mom hand to sweaty boy hand would take place in less than 20 seconds and I was back out the door, jumping off the stoop, through Don Brown’s hedge, over the ditch and standing beside the road with my brother and all the other huffing boys who had just shaken their moms up for pocket change. All of this happened before the truck was even in sight.
Yesterday, standing out in my garden and leaning on a rake, I watched my wife drive out toward the road. She got out of the Ranger as the ice cream truck rolled to a stop on the shoulder of the road. Even though she is tall enough now to look through the sliding service window into the eyes of the man who had just shifted the transmission into P and walked to the back to greet her, I could envision her, skinny-legged and barefoot with her wild hair blowing in the breeze at 10 years of age standing on her tiptoes and deciding what to get. I can’t really understand why this whole thing touched me like it did. I watched her dig some money out of her pocket and take possession of our ice cold treats. She got back in the Ranger and headed back my way.
I dropped the rake and met her in a patch of shade a few feet outside the garden and we opened our ice cream and told stories about our childhood and the ice cream man. The ice cream was sweet but the sight of Jill standing at that ice cream truck was the best thing that happened to me yesterday. You’ve just got to love memories like these.