By Bernice Garfield-Szita
This past week, in the midst of the sixth month of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as I sat in my back yard relaxing and taking in the beauty of a warm sunny summer day filled with vibrant colors of flowers, some of which I planted and some nature volunteered, I heard a familiar musical song being broadcasted from the top of a small white truck traveling slowly down the street behind our house. It mixed with natural bird songs of robins, cat birds, sparrows and cardinals flitting happily from tree to tree. I recognized it immediately as the familiar sound of the ice cream truck being driven by the friendly ice cream man!
My mind brought me back to 1950 when my family had moved from an older neighborhood in Astoria Queens where there were very few young children in the building where we lived to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Our new home was the Shore Haven Apartments which was overflowing with young families and children! It was wonderful to be able to play with so many children. We enjoyed games like jump rope, jacks, checkers, old maid, hide & seek and hopscotch.
It was the summer of my eighth year and finding new friends made the colors of the world around me deepen into bright intense hues like a Walt Disney movie. One day, as I was playing outside in the “square”, I heard the tinkle of a happy tune and the children around me started to run to their mothers. “What is it?” I asked a little girl near me. “It’s the Ice Cream Man! Go get money from your mother so you can buy some”.
I ran to my mother and told her about the magic truck of the Ice Cream Man who was bringing his frozen delights to us all and asked her for fifteen cents so I could go buy some.
She replied,”We have ice cream in our freezer that is just as good. Why do we need to spend money to buy it now?” My mother was logical and practical but after my intense pleading and perhaps not wanting to look mean in front of the other mothers, she gave me the money.
I skipped and ran to the curb with the other children. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by laughing, happy friends all discussing which ice cream treat was their favorite. There were colorful pictures of the choices and I finally pointed to one that was a pop, a chocolate eclair with nuts on the outside, vanilla ice cream and a chocolate fudge center. Handing my money to the friendly man like a grown up was also part of the amazing process. The five or six children who purchased the ice cream stood around comparing their choices and sharing their delight as they enjoyed their delicious ice cream. I don’t think I ever enjoyed an ice cream as much as that afternoon.
This memory has particular importance to me as it reminds me of some of the important things we are all missing today during this world crisis. The pleasure to be able to socialize with friends and family freely, sharing experiences together, whether it be sports, theater, holidays, movies, eating, music, exercise or a myriad of other activities. We also miss the carefree innocence of the little moments that we now give careful thought to such as shopping, getting the mail or going to the bank! We question, “Will life ever be the same again?”
Of course, if we are grieving a personal loss through death, divorce, financial pressure or a serious health crisis, the depth of the pain is so much greater. If we live alone and are grieving, the loneliness and isolation is even more intense, and can feel unbearable for some.