The timeless melody of Johann Strauss sounds through the neighborhood. A sweet four-year-old girl runs hastily to the door. “Yes! The ice cream truck is here!” In an incredible feat of strength she manages to turn the door handle. She pushes through the door, charges down the path and out the gate, and stops, panting, in the exact spot on the sidewalk where the ice cream truck will stop in a moment. As the ice cream vendor opens the window with calm indifference, she jumps from one foot to the other, unable to stop. “I want an ice cream cone, I want an ice cream cone with no pecans, I don’t like pecans, is there a cone?”
Mommy and Daddy are coming. They gently close the door to their home, slowly stroll up the path with the heaviness of a day’s end, and approach the ice cream truck. The girl is almost bursting with excitement. When Daddy reaches in his pocket and takes out his fat black wallet, she can already feel the pleasant, sweet cold on her tongue. This is wonderful, Daddy is looking at her from above, and Mommy is smiling too. Everyone knows and she knows that they know that she loves ice cream cones, and how anxiously she awaits the ice cream truck on Tuesday afternoons. That’s why it is so hard to wait more and more as the endless chatter between Mommy and Daddy and the ice cream vendor goes on and on, and the vendor, as if trying to drag it out and cause her despair, keeps talking with them instead of simply bending forward into his treasure chest and bring out her ice cream cone.
And here, he finally bends over, takes out two cones and hands them to Daddy. The girl stretches up with a huge smile, restraining herself from throwing herself at him and snatching a cone. Another second to wait, another second and she will be able to tear the shiny wrapper and…
And Daddy slowly and ceremoniously slips the wallet back into his pocket. He takes the two cones. He gives one to Mommy and the other…
The other he draws to his lips. And as she is standing there, a smile hanging on her lips, bursting with excitement, transparent and exposed like a four-year-old girl, Mommy and Daddy peel their ice cream cones and walk past her and back towards the house.
They walk past the gate, licking their ice cream, calmly chatting as they walk down the tiled path, and disappear from her sight as they ascend the three steps to the house, the door opens, the door closes…
She wakes from the nightmare with a jolt as the shrill melody of electronic bells pierces into her brain like a blow, and she is just able to see the ice cream truck driving out to the road, continuing on to its next station of joy.
* * *
When I tell this story the response is always horror. “There’s no way that happened. There are no parents who would do something like that.”
But the bitter truth is that it happened to every one of us. All of us stood by that ice cream truck, innocent, exposed, dependant and completely trusting our parents. Immersed in the deep knowledge that they are listening to us, that they want to understand what we are asking for. That they want to respond to it. That they’re on our side. That we’re not alone.
We stood there. We waited, we were excited, we signaled in every way possible and in the end we gave up. Something inside us was extinguished. In those vital moments in our childhood, that almost none of us remember precisely, our worldview was formed. We didn’t give up a vanilla or pecan ice cream cone. One might say that we gave up one of the seven major food groups for our souls, for our humanity. Nourishment that we could only receive from our parents in those years, and that is why we asked for it again and again and again. Until the moment came when we stopped. Because it started hurting more to ask than to give