Wednesday, September 24, 2008
There are childhood memories, and then there are childhood memories. What stands out most prominently from my own childhood, are not just the cool moments, but the people involved in them. Yes there were good friends, cool teachers... but every once in a while, there would me some one that stood out in a different way. In my childhood, that was the mailman and the milkman. Two people in everyday jobs, that could have just gone about there work and never made an impact. But they didn't. They stepped out of their box, and made memories for myself and the other kids in our neighborhood that define what childhood should be.
Our mailman always came by late afternoon, after school was out. Inevitably there would be a neighborhood game in progress, usually being played in the road. When a car came, (which was rare before 6pm when all the Dads came home) we would all yell "CAR" and move the street hockey nets, stickball bases or whatever was out in the road with us. Almost every afternoon, our mailman would take a short break, drop his bag on the nearest lawn, and jump into our game for a moment. We all loved it. No matter whose team he jumped into, we would all scream and cheer as he grabbed the whiffle ball bat, or slapped a tennis ball by our goalie.
Our milkman came by late morning, and before I was school aged, I can remember hearing his truck pull into the driveway. I would race outside as he rolled up the back door to his truck. He would let me climb in, and wait as long as I needed to pick out my favorite icecream flavor. Then he would make a big deal as I helped him carry in all the 'very important' things my mom needed... milk, juice, eggs. He made me feel like his most important helper every time.
I am sure part of this was fun for these guys... maybe a much needed break in a somewhat mundane day. But to us kids, this was the world. It was an adult letting us into their world, taking notice of us, letting us know we mattered.
My kids have lucked out in getting just such a guy in their own lives. Our ice cream man is the stuff of childhood fantasies. From the first day this man pulled in front of our house (when not only were my 7 home, but several neighbor kids) he has treated my kids as if they are his own grandkids. No matter if I happen to have a few spare dollars on me that day or not, he makes sure no one leaves empty handed. He almost always slips me a few extra ice cream bars, and says "For you and your husband... you work so hard for your kids!" He never charges for those extras.
This afternoon, my kids heard the truck coming a mile away, and were dancing around the driveway in anticipation. And what a treat it turned out to be. It was his final round of the season, and he was cleaning out stock. He let the kids pick their favorites from what he had left, and then said he had a surprise for them. He handed me a box overflowing with treats.
The kids all thanked him a million times, dancing around with their ice cream covered smiles. But I don't think they realized what they were thanking him for. The ice cream was gone in minutes. The extras in the freezer will probably be gone by tomorrow after sharing with all our Wednesday night friends. But the memory of today will be there forever. As I have reminisced and told my kids about my mailman, and my milkman... I know all these kids will be sharing the story of their ice cream man with their own kids some day. And what a sweet memory for all of us.