Ice cream truck delivers memory of old simplicity

Abbie Powers

The twangy, digital sound planted a small seed of hope in my ears the moment it squeezed its way through the mesh of the open windows. My assurance that the tune was only a whisper of a distant sound wave was slowly letting down its guard.
As the stinging notes began to string together and create a full-blown melody, my heart began to pump with inherent exhilaration.
I couldn’t help my excitement: It might be coming. It might be cruising down our street right now, right out my window. What if I don’t make it in time? I can’t let it get away.
Its sound was more electric than ever as I heard wheels roll slowly past my house. I knew then my dreams were confirmed – the ice cream truck was floating down the street, a blown up toy car and fluffy childhood playmate.
An oversized plastic ice cream cone teetered cheaply on its top, waving and wiggling with each dangerous lurch of the gas pedal. The rainbow of stickers pasted to its side advertised much bigger and fuller treats than the actual dull, squished popsicles of reality.
But then I remembered I was 17 years old. I wasn’t yearning for some tropical flavored ice crystals doused in sugar like the ones I’d drooled over as a child. My 13-year-old brother might be excited to swap 10 quarters for a mass of yellow mush resembling Sponge Bob, but not me.
Even as a child, it was never the ice cream that drove me to love the coming of the ice cream truck as much as I did. A simple popsicle didn’t seem to satisfy the question as to why I carried so much enthusiasm for something as insignificant and unyielding (except in ice cream) as the ice cream truck. It had nothing to offer me. The treats of my childhood did not hold excitement in themselves.
Yet the ice cream truck, the bulky, awkward van with its somewhat irritating music and scratched side doors, held a certain kind of rush. This rush brought with it the kind of happiness that can only be associated with a joyful time – that of childhood.
The sound I heard floating through the present summer haze harnessed my mind to its metallic bounce and steered it back 10 years ago to Mulberry Court.
I stood under the scolding sun and tried not to let its ferociously long rays  penetrate my soft, seven-year-old skin to a burn. My sister and a large group of neighborhood cronies stood by my side, rooted on the concrete, waiting our turn in hushed exhilaration for the serious task of ordering at the ice cream truck window.
The effortless happiness and utter lack of clutter of the summer between first and second grade shines through in this single moment. We were children surrounded by people to laugh with and discover with. Surrounded by people who haven’t yet learned how to judge or worry or think of the future. We stood united as a common crowd of ice cream lovers.
We gathered together on a square of pavement, becoming happier people through this one anticipated moment – through shoving our faces with popsicles.
The ice cream truck not only brought me back, but was currently bringing the same memories together for those whose childhoods were in the present. As they congregated on the sidewalk, I realized that one day this moment was going to be theirs to look back on.
They’ll remember this gathering of playmates, how they wilted in the smoldering sunshine and waited, perfectly content. They’ll remember how they stood there in smiles, like they knew the secret to life.
They’ll remember completely being there, encompassed in a glorious moment, as if they knew what made them happy and where to find it, and that was all that mattered. And they’ll remember bouncing on the pavement, bubbling with delight, like there was nothing more important or delicious in the world than a colorful, cold treat, straight from the ice cream truck itself.
I feel a rush of all these thoughts the second the ice cream truck makes its grand entrance onto our street. That feeling of ease, of knowing joy at something so small, was what made my summers as a child as simple and as happy as they were.
And if there is one vehicle with the ability to remind me of the simple happiness life has the potential to bring, to remind a stressing senior that it’s useless to live life unhappily when so many good things surround us, the ice cream truck is it.
That’s what life is for: to live for the good stuff, to live for ice cream.
By Abbie Powers