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Curse You, Mr. Softee!

Saturday, March 10. An unseasonably mild
morning at the park, with the weather finally warming up and people
shedding layers of clothing. Brian, Gamma, Maddie and I are all
playing happily in the park. And then it happens. We hear those
first strains of music that herald the official start of summer

The ice cream man has arrived.

In some parts of the country it’s
the Good Humor man; here it’s Mr. Softee, and on any dog day
in July or August you’ll see a truck parked on every corner
of Manhattan, with children and business executives alike lined up
for the $3 soft cones and $4 bomb pops. I’m sure somewhere
there’s a Mr. Softee executive headquarters office, with
white-collar bosses poring over zoning maps and divvying up the
streetcorners to the highest producers. For most of us, hearing
that music produces a Pavlovian-like response: the hand reaches for
those “emergency” folded one-dollar bills in the pocket
before the head even registers what you’re doing.

Every year it’s a bit like Christmas – the season seems
to start sooner and sooner and you feel like you’ve just
gotten over Labor Day when the stores start playing the Nutcracker
Suite. But hearing the truck pull up at the park on March 10
startled me – we’d barely seen spring, and here the guy
was jumping the gun, telling us to don our shorts and sunscreen! Of
course, after that one lone day the truck disappeared for several
weeks as the “normal” weather came back, but it was
certainly a harbinger of days to come – as well as a reminder
of how different this year was going to be.

Last year Maddie was barely a year old and oblivious to the fact
that sometimes Mommy and Daddy ate things and didn’t, well,
share. We often took her to the park twice a day, venturing out for
the second time after dinner to enjoy the long evenings of
sunlight. Every night without fail Mr. Softee would pull up at the
park promptly at 8 p.m., and the kids (ok, and adults) would go
running. Brian and I rarely left house without our
“emergency” cash and ended up succumbing to the siren
lure perhaps one out of every three evenings.

This year, though, will be a different story. Madeleine will wonder
where her own snack is, and not understand why Mommy’s not
sharing with Maddie since Sharing is such an important thing to do.
Especially now that Maddie’s had her inaugural bowl of ice
cream (ok, sorbet) at Baskin Robbins and can recognize the goods
when she sees it. This is gonna be tricky.

So we have yet to succumb, though it’s taken a lot of
willpower. Maddie notices that Brian’s head jerks sharply up
when the music comes round the corner, and she stares speculatively
at the object of his intense focus. For now, she thinks it is the
nice truck that drives around to play music for her to dance to and
we’re working hard to keep that story up. She’ll even
hear the sounds at night from our house and cry, “Park
music!” before getting up to boogie. God bless her.

How long can I hold out? I’m guessing it’ll be, oh, my
third or fourth morning in a row of two or less hours of sleep
before I break down and buy a $#@% cone. What can I say? Pray for
me. And pray that Mommy shares graciously.


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