I can hear it now. First the jingle of the music, then the rumble of the engine. We lived in unincorporated Phoenix when I was growing up in the 1950s, and while there were many kids in our neighborhood, there wasn’t much spare change, and what there was went, nickel by nickel, into the “Pay Off The House Early” fund, a fund many Great Depression Survivors carefully tended. The truck owners knew this, so a visit from one of them was an Event.
I only remember being allowed to buy a treat twice, and both times included my grandmother, Momo. My mom thought it an extravagance and I suppose it was. And didn’t she make us papaya juice popsicles in rubber ice-cube trays, always mindful of our health? But Momo thought there was no harm in filling a sparse childhood with a Dreamsicle or a Bullet, every now and then. And anyway, it was her dime.
Both times she must have heard the tell-tale signs of the truck, because she came out of her house carrying her little leather change purse. Once was in the summer, and she treated all three of us. But the second time my older siblings were in school, and she treated just me and her. I saw her wave down the driver, and as he pulled over my saliva started flowing. Oh, the treats he had! Of course, the Drumsticks were too expensive, as were the Eskimo Pies. I didn’t even think about them. But…which to choose? A bullet, with three flavors, or a two-sticked rootbeer popsicle, my favorite? She got an orange Dreamsicle, and I decided on the Bullet. Then we pulled together the iron armchairs under the mulberry tree, shared a moment, and made a memory. “Doesn’t this just hit the spot?” she asked. I nodded blissfully, hoping my mom wouldn’t find out. It would never do to spoil a child.
A couple of weeks ago we had dinner at our granddaughters’ house, and I was asked to dish the ice cream for dessert. I took orders for flavors – a sign of the times – we only had vanilla when I was growing up, and mostly that was homemade with skim milk - then I lined up the bowls behind the cartons, and began spooning.
I guess I was a little liberal, because I suddenly noticed Hannah’s eyes as round as saucers. “Grammy! Those are big scoops!” she said, as Sarah elbowed her and told her to shush, hoping her dad wouldn’t hear. But he did. “Mom,” he said, “Not so much.”
But Katie saved my bacon.
“Dad, she’s our Grammy! She just likes to spoil us!” And suddenly I was back under that mulberry tree, licking my Bullet and loving my grandmother.
I miss her.