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The Ice Cream Man Cometh

April 19, 2010

While I’d suspected that spring had tiptoed in, this weekend it became clear that it was well and truly here. This is how I know:

1. The first ice cream truck of the season.

It was perfectly timed. Friday, before the piano recital, AJ and his friend K had their regular lesson as a dress rehearsal. They had to introduce themselves and their pieces at the microphone and then play and then practice bowing — possibly the most difficult part of the performance. AJ raced through both the introduction and the bow, but did very well on his piece. K turned out to be a bit of a ham when confronted with a microphone. He introduced his piece as, ” ‘The Entertainer,’ also known as ‘The Ice Cream Man Song.’ ” He, too, played well. Afterwards, we walked out of the building together, AJ and I and K and his mom. I heard a sound in the distance. “Hey, K,” I said. “It’s your song!” And it was. And it sounded like it was headed our way. We looked down the street just in time to see the ice cream truck come lumbering around the bend. The boys were jumping up and down. When you are nine, the ice cream truck is like a mythical beast. You’ve heard rumors of its existence, but you are not sure it actually exists, as it has so rarely been spotted in your neighborhood.

The boys ran to the corner, wiggling with excitement. As the truck approached, they started waving frantically. They could barely contain themselves as the truck slowed down for the stop sign at the intersection, terrified that the driver might ignore them and turn left, leaving them tragically on the street corner clutching damp dollars. We had to hold them back to keep them from leaping into the street. But the truck rolled up to the curb and a young girl with long blonde hair and a nose ring smiled at them from inside and spoke those beautiful words:

“What can I get you?”

Then came the deliberation, because the first ice cream truck ice cream of the season deserves careful consideration. A bomb pop? No, not creamy enough. A chipwich? Pretty good, but oh, what about the Spongebob pop with the gumballs for eyes? They both settled on that. It was best for them to have the same thing. As the girl handed over the ice cream to the boys, they thanked her as if she’d given them gold bullion or a pony. I said to her, “this looks like a pretty fun job.” She nodded earnestly. “It is the best job ever!” The boys saluted her and each other with their ice cream and we strolled in opposite directions to our cars in the warm afternoon.

The first ice cream truck sighting of the season always makes me think of this poem by Adrienne Rich:

Miracle Ice Cream
by Adrienne Rich

Miracle’s truck comes down the little avenue,
Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls,
and, yes, you can feel happy
with one piece of your heart.

Take what’s still given: in a room’s rich shadow
a woman’s breasts swinging lightly as she bends.
Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves.
Late, you sit weighing the evening news,
fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions,
the rest of your heart.

2. The first pitch.

Saturday was entirely devoted to worshiping at the temple of baseball. It began early, with warm-ups in the yard. After an early lunch, we headed over to AJ’s school to line up for the annual Opening Day Parade, in which the few children who are not in the parade receive copious amounts of candy aggressively thrown by those showing off their pitching arm. AJ’s team marched proudly behind their banner, except when they were scuttling off to the curbs to gather up stray candy for themselves or possibly to throw again, whichever seemed like more fun at the time. It was a beautiful sunny day. The parade route down Main Street was short, but the speeches afterwards were long. The mayor threw out the pitch and all the children threw their caps in the air. I skipped out of the speeches to go get the car and bring it closer. I walked in at the end just in time to see the caps fly exuberantly skyward.

After a brief break, we headed to AJ’s first game of the season. The boys didn’t look especially fantastic at the pre-game practice, but the game was very exciting and AJ’s team won 11 to 10. I believe this is the first time AJ’s baseball team has ever won its first game. The boys were grinning from ear to ear and so was Coach Spy and his co-coach. We celebrated by going out for pizza with the co-coach and his kids and AJ had a celebratory sleepover at their house while Mr. Spy and I had some peace and quiet. We came home after 7:30 and it was still light out.

3. The first porch sit

Mr. Spy’s mother is having painters in to do her front room, and there was much to do. Usually Mr. Spy’s brother helps her with the moving of furniture and the retrieval of objects from the basement, but he was diagnosed with pneumonia last week so Mr. Spy and AJ went to the rescue yesterday, leaving me with a day to myself. As I was feeling rather guilty about it, I worked hard, doing two loads of laundry, practicing Beethoven on the piano and the New Pornographers on electric guitar, pruning trees, weeding flowerbeds, working on the ongoing project of noxious weed abatement in the woods, where I was surrounded by blooming bluebells and trillium, baking a batch of lime sugar cookies for AJ’s lunches, brining and roasting a pork loin (with a mustard seed crust), roasting carrots and beets with lentils, soaking and sauteeing beet greens. But the big project of the day was the screened porch. It was filthy and the furniture was in ill-repair. I carried the radio out to the porch, turned on the broadcast of Mambo Express and began washing things. I washed the walls. I washed the screens. I carried all the cushions outside and first beat then washed them, leaving them to dry in the sun. I washed all the furniture. After it dried, I tightened all the bolts and repaired the arm of the chaise longue, which had fallen off sometime last summer and left to languish underneath. I washed the brick floor with many changes of water. The porch smelled like lemons. Last of all, I filled an old single-serving Orangina bottle with water and clipped some twigs from the plum tree that hangs over the porch and is now in full snowy bloom, poking their branches into the narrow opening and put it in the center of the table. I can see it from the kitchen now over the top of my computer screen. It was too cold for breakfast out there this morning — the frost was still melting off the grass. But we are hoping for lunch.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2010 9:20 am

    I love the Rich poem. There’s an ice cream truck in our small town that plays a strange tune and never comes down our street. Never. Not once. My kids call it the phantom ice cream truck. We seem to hear it most often around the end of September. Once it stopped at the soccer field where Walker was playing a game, selling to the spectators. So neither of my kids has ever had the experience of buying ice cream from a truck.

  2. freshhell permalink
    April 19, 2010 10:00 am

    We don’t see an ice cream truck until we go to the beach. One comes around every afternoon. I’m not telling Dusty and Red that some regular neighborhoods get ice cream trucks. They will start packing and I’ll find a “for sale” sign in the front yard.

    I am envious of even your dirty screened-in porch.

  3. readersguide permalink
    April 19, 2010 1:45 pm

    1. I am now starving. I want pork roast with lentils and a lime sugar cookie.
    2. We had the misfortune to live in a neighborhood where the ice cream truck stopped outside our door every single day, right at dinner time. We had to buy a lot of rather inferior ice cream (the spongebob with the gumball eyes sounds familiar). On the other hand, it made desert easy.

  4. April 19, 2010 3:24 pm

    We had the ice cream truck come by this Sat. too. We refer to it as the “music truck” (we live by a pool so see it multiple times a day all summer and I didn’t want to name it for my toddler!) and Saturday we managed to ignore it.

  5. crankygirl permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:16 pm

    I would love that poem except all mention of breasts makes me shudder now that I have a baby feeding at them umpteen times a day.

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