One spring, an ice cream man posted up just past our school, just after the dismissal bell. It was an excellent move. The kids would line up with their quarters and nickels and dimes for an orange push-up, the coned nutty-buddy and the rectangular ice cream covered in a topping and served on a stick.
I wanted to eat ice cream on the way home from school, too. Mom did not agree. She thought it was too close to dinner time–school getting out at 3 pm and plates on the table pretty religiously by 5 pm. Plus, she was thrifty. She was not one to waste a penny on overpriced convenience food when she could get an entire box of frozen treats for the price of the two ice creams for me and My Sib.
We pleaded as little kids do. I’m sure we made the normal arguments of “all the other kids,” which was likely followed by a standard parental response about the wisdom of following them off of a cliff. We likely then went to bargaining, promising to do extra chores or offering a sacrifice to be named later. Not super effective. Mom was not easily moved. Check that. Mom NEVER changed her mind. She considered equivocation a huge weakness. Actually more like an unrecoverable error. We tried anyway.
Plan B? Ask Dad. Now this was the reasonable guy. He was open to begging, especially when it came to seven-year-old me. I fancied myself persuasive. But, as it turned out, there was no way that Dad would overturn Mom for an after school treat. Our childish desire to eat ice cream did not tip the scales. Nope. Not at all. Yet, it was really too much for us to walk past that white truck with the entire school partaking of sweet frozen ambrosia.
Next option? Thievery.
We didn’t have any money, but Mom did. Over the course of a week or so, we pilfered coins out of her wallet. We cased the truck, selecting then reselecting then returning to our original goodie of choice. The day arrived. We were going to put our plan into action. After school.
I don’t know how My Sib felt, but I felt like a grown up. I held my coins tightly in my fist as I waited my turn. The bigger kids jumped in front of me. I was a little lost in the crowd. My Sib was a year older. She found our way to the window. I felt rushed. The paper wrapped ice cream was in my hand and my money gone without me fully savoring the experience. But, there was the ice cream.
I had selected the ice cream sundae cup. There was a little bowl full of very hard, very frozen ice cream with equally hard and equally frozen strawberries around the edges and halfway down the container. I had a small, thick, flat wooden spatula for a spoon. It could dig into the tundra. My Sib had the cone with the chocolate and nut crown. We had a little less than a fifteen minute walk home to eat the evidence of our crime.
I think we were nervous. I don’t think we particularly enjoyed the ice creams, but were thrilled at our most clever execution of our plan. We talked about what we would get next time. We had to dump the wrappers. I’m pretty sure we just threw them on the ground. Litterers, too.
We were not without pride when we walked into the house, after defying all the rules. We procured the cash, bought and consumed the forbidden contraband. Well done, small people, we thought. But, you know what pride goest before.
Dad and Mom called us into the kitchen. We were not alerted to any danger. They were relaxed. Mom asked how school was. I went on and on about my day. I figured the more I said, the further we were away from the events we were hiding. I soon got into sharing about my reading group or spelling words or flash card math. Dad smiled at us and asked, “So how was the ice cream?”
Without missing a beat, I grinned and nodded and said, “It was GOOD!” My Sib snapped her head in my direction. My little hand lifted to cover my mouth that was now wide in horror. How did he know?!? The next few minutes are a blur. A combination of super slo-mo with everyone talking in that slowdowned way and a flurry of sped up words and fluttering hands and washed faces and off to our rooms. There were tears of humiliation and guilt. Especially when it was explained to us that we stole from our mother. That’s on the same level as drowning kittens, copying off someone’s test or lying right to Jesus’ face.
This was the worst thing I had ever done. And my lack of discretion under cross examination made me the goat in My Sib’s eyes. Not a good partner in crime. I was pretty much the worst. I felt so sorry for myself, for being so awful, that I cried and cried in my room in the most dramatic fashion. I think my mother came to my room to recommend that I cease and desist with the theatrics.
We were told that there would be no dinner, and that we needed to go straight to bed. They relented, and we ate dinner in our pajamas. You can be sure I cleaned my plate as I ate in silence, my stomach in knots. My Sib whispered to me that I was forgiven. We went to sleep. I don’t think I dreamed about ice cream that night.
Parents must have complained because the truck soon disappeared, never to taunt or tempt the second and third graders at Norman Rockwell Elementary School again. I’ll never know if my parents called. They may have, but they were tricksy. They knew things. They were superhuman. They were out of my league.
Turns out that it was easy to bust us. We both had ice cream all over our faces. No napkins. A flaw in the henious plot. I overheard my Dad telling the story to my uncle. Still, they were good.
Anyway, that’s why I don’t lie. I’m just not any good at it. But I still eat ice cream in a little cup. I pay for it with my own money. And sometimes I eat ice cream for dinner. I’m grown, now.