Jamie, reach in that pocket one more time


One of the biggest joys in a kid's day was when the ice cream man would come around. The sound of his bell, like a mobile church, would ring from blocks away, then come closer, house by house until at last it was in front of ours. It was enough to cause heart attacks in three-year-olds—the happiness and excitement was just too much.

When you heard that sound coming the first thought was to round up some money, fast. There'd be a split second where we would all stop whatever we were doing in the yard and look at each other. Then someone would send out the call, "Ice Cream Man!" and we'd all make a beeline to the house to find Mom. Can we have some ice-cream money? Well I'm not sure, we just went to the store and . . . Hurry mother! A couple of quarters were laid in each hand, then it was back out to the front yard. Damn that screen door that always fumbled in my hand!

Marshall was already at the head of the line, Cathy and I standing behind. On one particular day I turned to watch as a group of neighborhood kids came to the que, jumping over fences and tree stumps. One kid, Jamie, hadn't a stitch of clothing. All of us snickered as he ran into the yard, seemingly oblivious to anything being strange or drafty. The ice cream truck pulled up to a stop, its bell dead mid-ring, and a man leaned out of the window.

"Who's first?"

All of us made some sort of silent decision that Jamie should have that honor, and so parted the que to allow him to step up. He made no hesitation, just walked right through and up to the van.

"What do you want, kid?" The man held back his own snicker, head swinging from side to side, tanned arm dangling out the window.

Jamie looked at the brightly painted images of ice cream in all its unmelted, food-dyed, stars and exploding rainbows glory and said, "I'd like a Bomb Pop, Jr. Please."

"That'll be a quarter."

This was the moment we had all waited for. It was well known that kids, at least on this particular planet, did not ever possess any actual money. Naked kids had less.

But kids did have good imaginations, and foolish hope. Jamie reached right down into an invisible pocket and pulled out an invisible quarter. Then he handed it to the man.

Would it work? It would change the world if it did. If invisible currency began to be accepted among all vendors of candy or sweets or ice cream, all of our lives would take a happy turn that very day. Children would rule.

The man waved Jamie's hand away in agitation. "Sorry kid, can't do it. Next."

Jamie turned back to us, head down low. My quarter itched in my hand unpleasantly. I didn't need any ice cream, not really. I could give him my quarter and enjoy his happiness instead of my own. But I didn't. I was selfish and kept my quarter and ordered my ice cream. I ate it, but didn't really taste it. And Jamie slumped his way back home, naked; hope deflated by the ice cream man.

But there would be other times, and Jamie would have his day. I'm sure of it, just as sure as I am that somewhere, maybe closer than you think, a bell is ringing. Just open your window for a moment and see if you can hear.

Comments

  1. Oh Amy. I think you should have given him your quarter. Or maybe shared your ice cream with him. Well, given him just one lick perhaps. No, come to think of it, you were right.

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  2. How sweet is this? I'm totally deflated at the moment that Jamie's imaginary quarter didn't work! I mean, obviously it couldn't, but if it did, wow.

    LOVED reading this.

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  3. My kids often lament that the ice cream truck skips our street because it is a skinny, narrow culdesac that is impossible to maneuver.

    It's a sad truth of their childhood. I'm sure it will come out in therapy someday ;)

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  4. Here I am with my heart racing hoping that Jamie's quarter was going to work and the minute it didn't I was crushed. I mean who is that kind when they need to make a living, but it would have been cool to see at least.

    I think I would have done what you had and held the quarter all on my own, even if I didn't need ice cream. As children we are still learning our feelings and how bad we might want something.

    This was an awesome story!

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  5. My neighborhood ice cream man asked me if I read the Bible. He read his "every night." I placed my bomb pop orders with my sister after that.

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  6. Here in England, everyone believes that the Tudor tune, 'Green Sleeves' was written by Henry the 8th for one of his paramours. In fact, he wrote it for an Italian ice-cream seller, and they have been playing it from their vans ever since.

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  7. Poor Jamie and his imaginary quarter.

    Love it though, Amy!

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  8. I'm glad everyone enjoyed the story! Jamie was a cute little guy, but I always wondered where his momma was. Should have given him the quarter darnitt.

    C. Andres, sounds like my dad was driving the van. Bibles scare me too.

    Jen, Kim, Kristi- thank you!

    Cro- I shoulda, woulda, coulda, haha.

    Tom- I kind of like the idea of Greensleeves being played by the ice cream man. Though it does sort of cut the excitement a bit. "Here comes the ice creeeamm, oooohhhh. Greensleeves ooooohhhh."

    Tess- I feel your pain. The I-man in our neighborhood drives so fast you'd have to have one of those police spike strips to get him to stop.

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  9. What a fun story! If only it were still so cheap. At $2 for an ice cream, I can't just hand my son a quarter and say, "Go!" Nope, he has to earn his ice cream money and is pretty much limited to once every few weeks.

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