The familiar is slowly returning to Rockaway. The dark cold days and nights seem in the distant past. Shoots of flowers are piercing the sand covered soil with the hope of spring. While we watched this happen, there were flickers of optimism in our hearts. But the true sign of normalcy and familiarity came last weekend with the sounds of Mister Softee. An ice-cream truck singing down the street may seem like an ordinary thing, yet it is a constant in all of our lives.
Having spent my entire life in New York City, I can’t recall a spring that was not welcomed by the comforting jingle from the truck. As a child, the sound were the bells rung by the Good Humor cart, with the bike attached that the man in white pedaled down the street. Later there was the truck, but my earliest memory is of the cart. I can also recollect my very first ice-cream pop. My mother would buy us the special treats occasionally when I was very young and I always got the cardboard cup, half chocolate and half vanilla to be eaten with a flat wooden stick. My sister, one year older, got the delectable looking dark chocolate ice-cream on a wooden stick. I was only 4 years old, but I remember asking for what she had. My mother said I was too young, which was disappointing.
Then, one day, I got my chance. My parents had to go somewhere and my aunt and uncle were watching my sister and I. They did not have any kids, so even at four, this was the golden opportunity on that afternoon when I heard the familiar sound of the ice-cream cart. I asked for a pop just like my big sister. Maria, my sister, said I was too young. She sounded a lot like my mother, but my aunt fell for me and my sad brown eyes and got the pop. There I was, 4 years old and I felt like a grown-up eating the delicious chocolate off of the pop. Of course, a 4 year old is easily distracted by the sun, or a noise or anything, so I barely noticed the chocolate melting down my hand and onto my dress. To this day, I can still hear my sister saying, “mommy said you are too young”. I fully understood what that meant now. But a few tears and lots of clean up later all was well. It was however,, a few years down the road until i felt ready to tackle that pop again.
I thought of this story last week as my husband and I purchased our first Mister Softee of the season. It was a delicious vanilla soft serve cone, that tasted fresh and extremely familiar and finally normal. Summer isn’t so far away.