One of the consistent things in our neighborhood is the very steady flow of ice-cream trucks up and down our street. In the six years that I have lived here, I have never bought ice-cream from any of them. Until yesterday
I can’t remember the occasion, but I had told the kids last week that I would set a dollar out and the next ice-cream truck we heard, we could go outside and spend our dollar. Well, we never heard one that day (hard to imagine), but yesterday the kids remembered what I had said and when we heard the familiar music, asked me if we could go. Something truly remarkable had just happened in our home: all three kids took afternoon naps. At the same time. And so I was happy to allow them this special treat.
We ran down our stairs, without shoes, and out our front door but we were too late. The truck had already crossed 30th and I wasn’t going to cross the street barefoot. “Let’s sit on our step and wait to see if there will be another one,” I suggested. The kids were thrilled to run around in the grass and build little twig houses and blow dandelions while we waited. And sure enough, a few minutes later we heard another truck
We met the ice-cream truck (van, actually) on the corner of 30th and Kenwood, and Mercy very quickly pointed out the pink ice-cream cone she wanted. After realizing that just about everything else pictured on the side of the truck cost more than a dollar, I asked the man for the pink ice-cream cone. We walked back to our steps, and the kids giddily sat down to share their treat. They took turns with bites and licks, and their soon-pink faces and big smiles gave me much joy. Doug arrived home from his study session while we were still out front, and he was given the bottom of the cone filled with melted pink to eat.
While we had been out front waiting, we had made friends with two little kids riding scooters on our street. I had not seen them before, and they motioned a few houses south of us when I asked them where they stayed. When we heard the ice-cream truck, they ran home to get some money, but by the time they made it back the truck was gone. I assured them that another one would likely come soon. When it did, I was horrified to see these two kids running after the truck, begging it to stop, while the driver accelerated and drove away. And I could not help but wonder if it was because of the color of their skin.
About the same time we had heard the first truck approaching, a cruiser had come racing up our street. Having just seen a flurry of young men on bikes and on foot, streaming from 30th, I had that moment where I had to decide if we should turn around and go back inside. For whatever reason I decided to keep going and so we walked, barefoot, Elijah dangling from my arms and the two big kids holding hands, to a corner that has been the center of so much violence in our neighborhood, with the black and white cruiser creeping slowly next to us. A second cruiser came from the opposite direction and the two met just north of us on Kenwood, parked their vehicles, and entered the property of one of our neighbors. And we picked out our ice-cream.
Doug made a comment to me the other day about how people make a big deal about where we live but “it’s not like we are saving the world or anything.” My response to him was that while that was true, there is a constant level of fear and tension that we live with that most others (at least those who have a choice) do not. I was especially struck by this on our trip to Denver when I was standing in the backyard of Aunt Kristin’s house where my kids were playing, and I caught myself constantly looking around and looking behind me and I realized: wait, I don’t have to do that here.
It’s hard to quantify: the fear that hovers over little decisions like buying ice-cream. It’s hard to quantify: the ever-present shadow of young men, murdered. It’s hard to quantify: remembering all of the kids who were out playing the night someone was shot, and choosing to walk outside with your own.