I made it until Alexis was probably five or six before she recognized the ice cream truck as something more than a truck that drives around playing fun music. For years, we paused to enjoy the "music truck" without ever investigating the idea that it allows you to trade money for ice cream.
It was good while it lasted.
I can't make Alexis unknow that which she knows, so when the tell-tale music began floating through our neighborhood a few weekends ago, SHE KNEW. She appeared out of nowhere begging for money. Where there is an Alexis there is also a Mila, so the gig was up. I nearly made it three years with the second kid oblivious to the magic that is the ice cream truck.
::Sigh:: It was good while it lasted.
Alexis held out her hand begging, and for once I was prepared. I had been working in the yard, so I heard the music before she did. I coughed up $10 and watched as Alexis picked up Mila and began to run after the music truck. The music truck is an emergency situation, so she didn't even pause to grab shoes.
Barefoot and carrying her baby sister, Alexis set out to chase down the music truck. And she chased. And she chased. And she chased. Despite the pied piper music playing, the truck was moving faster than the children it was calling could run. Alexis went from eagerly chasing the truck to struggling to obviously defeated as she ran down the sidewalk.
I don't know how the driver didn't see her. One gangly arm waved the money in the air while long gangly legs flew around through the chase. There were arms and legs flying everywhere, even as the toddler bounced wildly to and fro.
Just as I took in the sadness that was Alexis stopping the chase and slowly turning around, I had an idea. There was still a chance to save the day. I ran down the driveway, jumped in the car, and met the girls up the street. I rolled down the passenger-side window and told the girls to jump in.
"Both of us?" Alexis asked. She was thoroughly confused because nobody is allowed in the front seat of my car but me. There wasn't time for proper seating arrangements, though, so I said yes and watched as the girls piled in the front seat together.
If I thought Alexis was confused, Mila was even more confused. She sat in Alexis' lap completely dumbfounded as we rolled through the neighborhood. She was so confused she forgot to push buttons or squirm or anything. She just sat there nicely, like an actual human being who may grow up to be a respectable member of society.
Alexis just grinned.
We caught the ice cream truck at the stop sign at the top of the hill. The girls exchanged the money for a few ice cream bars and I ditched them. I made them walk back to the house because my job was done. I got them to the music truck in time.
Deciding to have them walk back home was easily the best decision I made that day. The girls returned to the house hand-in-hand, each smiling as they worked on their ice cream bars. They shared a few whispers and giggles while I stood on the stoop looking on.
Maybe having Mila find out about the music truck earlier than I would have liked wasn't the worst thing ever. Just maybe.