By Fiona LECKERMAN.
We all scramble to tie, Velcro and buckle our shoes. There is an urgency in our desire to get out, the fear that this break in the clouds will vanish speeds us onwards, the brief appearance of the sun hurries our excited, holed up inside for far too long hearts.
We race to find cardigans and coats, in our haste buttons jump into the wrong button holes, fingers become fumbling thumbs, raincoats go on inside out and back to front but, we don’t care about our topsy-turvey attire, we only care that the sun has finally got his hat on and, yes, we are going out to play.
The sound of playing reverberates through the streets, its volume getting louder as we approach closer, closer and closer still to the garden of children’s Eden. The park. The sun bounces beautifully off the shining metal slide with small happy faces reflected in it.
My kids flee from me, they drop tightly held hands and run, run free. Abandoning scooters and helmets, like layers of winter skin, left on the dewy grass as their light feet zoom in and out of climbing frames, their arms flapping in the wind. Undeterred by the odd fall they brush themselves off and continue, squealing the squeal of pure happiness.
All is well, all is as it should be until, from the distance a sound can be heard, a familiar jingle, a song. And as its tinkering tune draws near a sense of foreboding eclipses the lustrous sun. Its impending presence freezers my warm hands as I wait for the inevitable. The Yankee Doodle ditty playing ice cream van pulls up right by the entrance to the park.
I throw it my best dirty look, I close my eyes and say my own private magic spell, I open them disappointed at my failed wizardry. Kids swarm like bees to honey, parents cannot keep up with the screaming throngs. I feel it coming. It’s inevitable, a sure thing. I steady myself for it, my teeth gritted. The ground trembles as my patience quickly readies for battle.
“I wan’ eye ceeeam.” She demands. “I wan’ eye ceeam now, mummy eye ceeam ban, eye ceeam peas?” Her little arms are outstretched. She deals a persuasive tug of my leg and trumps it with a bat of her blue eyes.
It’s worth a shot, so I begin, “No, not now, it’s almost dinner time, you can have some ice cream later.”
“Mummy, I wan’ eye ceeam peas, peas.”
“No, I’m sorry.” I change my tack with a lie, “Mummy has no money on her to buy ice cream. But I have ice cream at home, for after dinner.” I fling in an “I promise, after dinner.”
And, then the tears come, they explode, cascading down her rosy pink cheeks. A deluge of salty wanting tears. She stamps her feet, it builds. I stay firm, wishing the van would move on, but as the children keep going, it stands resolute, winning. She continues to beg, and it is in this moment I decide my best defence is to retreat. We leave. We scarper. The park dissolves as we edge further home. Her crying stops, the tear tap turns off and we begin to forget. Ice cream is replaced by the thrill of racing scooters, collecting stones and plucking leaves from unsuspecting trees.
Finally home is in sight, just as complacency settles in, the street vibrates with a Yankee Doodle doom. I turn in slow motion and like a horror movie there it is, the van, chasing us down the road, its menacing plastic ice cream cones rattling along.
There is no escape. “Mummy, I see eye ceeam ban.” I can’t fight it. “Peas eye ceeam.” And, as I look into her beautiful blue pleading eyes I feel my resolve soften. I search for options as it gains ground, I can’t out run a speeding Mr Whippy van with two children, two scooters and two discarded cardigans. I can’t hide, because surely a game of hide and seek with a giant ice cream filled van is neither feasible, nor fun. So I give up, let it capture us and give in. He grins a victorious grin “How many?” My daughter answers, “Tree eye ceeams peas.”
And, I don’t even correct her.
Read more from Fiona Leckerman’s Tales from the Wood series: why school points are not the only reason we go to shul.