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Ice Cream Van in Winter

July 16, 2010

It is an icy day, with a wind that cuts through all 4 layers of my clothing. As I walk up my street, an ice cream van drives down it slowly, blaring the usual tinny, wilting version of Greensleeves. In the front of the van is the driver and a boy who is obviously his son. How would it be, slowly cruising around the suburbs in an ice cream van?

The boy looked angry about it, but I think I would rather like it if someone offered to take me for a spin. Not being a great fan of ice cream (particularly soft serve, ick), I don’t think I have ever bought an ice cream from a van. I can’t believe that they still exist, it is like some part of my childhood has popped up, like a memory made real. Summer always had them roaming the suburbs, fragments of Greensleeves hanging on the breeze, sometimes from a couple of competing vans. Sometimes they would stop nearby, and children would come out and buy ice creams. It was so proper I couldn’t believe it was real. It was like living in a cartoon, in which I was the girl kept apart from the perfect life going on outside.

I was in the living room, looking out through the big windows where the afternoon sun poured in. I’d curl up against them like a cat, with my books. I was always reading, I felt thirsty to find out about lives that were different to my own. The more “adult” the book, the better. I wanted to get right away from being twelve in the suburbs of Sydney. I was certain that everyone else’s life in the streets around where I lived was all ice cream trucks and carefree afternoons bouncing on the trampoline. By comparison, I felt like I was a sad adult spirit crushed into a child’s body.

If my logic was correct, though, then the boy in the ice cream truck wouldn’t have looked so lost. He was at the helm of childhood dreams!  I made eye contact with him, this adult me, wearing a big blue 70s coat and plimsolls with checker laces, and felt some kind of understanding, some kind of communion between him and my past self, who never felt like anything was going to happen, or anything was going to get better. Luckily, she was wrong. 

This is a photo I took in London in 2007. It was summer but looks like winter.

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