That haunting melody of bells will creep into my head at the strangest of times. One note at a time, the rhythmic chiming playfully reverberates its way through my soul. I close my eyes and suddenly I am transported over forty years back in time; and then I find myself cradled by the loving arms of joyous childhood innocence.
Games of pick-up baseball and rounds of freeze tag would screech to a halt as the bells echoed through the neighborhood. Legions of children would race to their homes; staying there only long enough to beg for handfuls of pocket change from their parents. Then the army of adolescents would descend upon the streets anew.
Waiting in line seemed to last an eternity; especially for those of us who had not been blessed with patience. Slowly I trudged forward, growing more eager with each small step. At long last it was my turn and I would longingly look up at the enormous open window on the side of the large van.
You would think that in the time that I had waited, I would have decided what treat I would order. Now I was in a state of utter confusion; not knowing if my future included a frozen fudge bar or a multicolored bomb pop! There were just too many choices for the six year-old mind to grasp! You see, I was in the magical embrace of the ice cream man!
There were few things that served to bring the neighborhood children together quite like that frozen concoction vendor. Each of us could have had ice cream at any time, right in the comfort of our parents’ kitchens. We could have ignored the haunting tune as the large van wound its way up and down the streets. All of us could have chosen not to bother our parents for money; our small hands extended and our eyes twinkling. But there was something special about being part of the group, getting to make our own choices, and sharing a bounty of chocolate dipped ice cream cones with our friends!
I was just tasting the last soggy bite of waffle cone. melted rocky road ice cream pooled at its base; when my eyes opened rapidly. The alarm was blaring at me, calling me back from the enchanted world of dreams. I absently wiped away at the bottom of my chin, only to realize that there was no ice cream there to dab away. I was back to my adult existence and the world was waiting for me to share my executive expertise.
The light in the bathroom stung my eyes as I looked upward towards the mirror. I half expected to see my childhood face in the reflection of the looking-glass. Running my hand across the stubble that had formed on my chin overnight; I came to the sad conclusion that I was indeed back in the world of my middle age. Still foggy eyed, I sighed deeply and reached for the toothbrush.
Over the course of the past several weeks, the vivid image of the ice cream man has continued to enter my thoughts at the most inopportune times. It is difficult to explain to the boss why you are humming a Calliope-like tune in the middle of his presentation. Your coworkers just shake their heads as you spend your entire lunch hour looking up and down the street longingly. Trust me when I say that asking your spouse for loose pocket change each morning will lead to blanks stares every time.
Now imagine yet another day at the proverbial salt mines. You are seated behind a desk piled high with endless memos and mind-numbing sales reports. The boss just finished her weekly meeting where each of you was peppered with your individual shortcomings and your mediocrity as a team. Your thrill for the afternoon will consist of shuffling paperwork back and forth between yourself and your coworkers.
Suddenly your ears perk up! Is that the sound of bells wafting up from the busy street below? You share an anxious glance with the guy in the cubicle next to yours. Wait a minute, is that change jingling in his pocket? A dull roar echoes throughout the office as everybody runs towards the elevators. You squeeze in just as the doors close behind you. A little quick math tells you that the posted weight limit in the cramped compartment has been well exceeded.
The benefit of being the last person onto the elevator is that you get to be the first individual off. In my case, it meant that I was at the front of the line as the pristine white step van pulled up to the curb. I turned to look back at a collection of big smiles, twinkling eyes, and shuffling feet. Then we were enveloped in an eerie silence. The absence of the resounding bell peels could only mean one thing; the van had come to a stop and it was now officially treat time! I spun back around and realized that I had no idea what I wanted. I acknowledged that some things never change!
My eyes nervously scanned the menu posted on the side of the van. It was then that I realized there were no traditional ice cream treats listed anywhere. Instead there were items with puzzling names such as “innocence” and “spontaneity.” I was considering ordering the “playtime” when I spotted an item listed as “adulthood.”
Placing my order, I was informed that they were all out of “adulthood” since that was the flavor that everybody always wanted. I finally settled on two scoops of “make-believe” in a cup. As I rolled the frozen treat around in my mouth; I felt the years melting away. Suddenly I was back in a world that was carefree and open to any possibility. My coworkers were skipping around and squealing in delight. Spontaneous games of tag and hopscotch had broken out.
The last spoonful was passing through my lips as I watched the van pulling away. It was then that I saw the words “Ice Dream Man” painted across the back. It was at that very moment that I realized we are all desperately trying to find that which we were originally blessed with; childlike happiness.