For decades on Long Island, summer has been synonymous with the sound of Good Humor and Mister Softee jingles filling neighborhood streets. For many, those sounds conjure up wonderful vanilla and chocolate memories of summer.
In the 1960s in Commack, my budget-conscious mom allowed me and my four siblings to buy ice cream from the Good Humor man once a week. I recall the joyful anticipation of his arrival.
Following my mom’s example, my husband and I did the same with our own two daughters in South Setauket. It seems like only yesterday our girls shrieked with joy while running out to get vanilla cones and candy cigarettes.
Today, my 5-year-old grandson shares the same joy.
When Kevin visits me, his favorite is the SpongeBob Squarepants ice pop. It’s modeled after the cartoon character we enjoy watching on TV together. He loves to put the pop in a bowl, mash it up and eat his “ice cream soup.”
His love of this pop provided our own special ice cream-man moment.
On a Saturday in April, we both heard the ice cream truck’s chimes from inside my home. In unison, we shouted, “Ice cream man!”
I grabbed some cash and we ran outside to await his arrival in front of the house. One hour passed, then two. Kevin paced, went back and forth to the curb, and continuously chatted about the ice cream man. His resolve was firm. He would not go back inside until the truck arrived.
“Maybe the ice cream man went home to have lunch with his wife,” I said.
“Grammie,” Kevin replied with worldly knowledge, “ice cream men don’t have wives!”
“OK, Kevin, I’ll make you a deal,” I said. “We’ll wait five more minutes, and if the ice cream man doesn’t come, we’ll go back inside the house, and we’ll try to find a local store that sells SpongeBob Squarepants popsicles.”
Reluctantly, he agreed.
We searched the Internet. Eureka! Walmart.com showed that some stores carry the SpongeBob pop, but alas, the closest one selling it was in Connecticut. I called my local Walmart, and then two other local stores, all to no avail.
As we sat dejected, we suddenly heard the familiar chimes. Our eyes met and we screamed out, “Ice cream man!” As we ran outside, Kevin cried hysterically, “Grammie, he passed the house!”
“Grammie will catch the ice cream man,” I said. “Go! Go! We’ll get in my car and catch him.”
I drove south on my block. He was nowhere in sight. Did he turn right or left? My grandson’s happiness depended on my decision. With telepathic instinct, I turned right so I might cut the truck off at the pass. He was coming up the block! I waved him down, and we got out of the car.
“I’d like a SpongeBob Squarepants popsicle please,” I stated calmly, while inside I was performing cartwheels. I handed the man a $5 bill and he gave me $2 change. My grandson never looked so happy as he held on to the pop so we could go back home to make ice cream soup.
At that moment, I was no longer simply a doting grandmother. I was a superhero. Best ice cream-man moment ever.
Reader Patricia Schaefer lives in South Setauket.