Who moved my ice-cream truck?

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--While I was a kid growing up in Mississippi, it didn't take much to make me happy. All it took was the clanging of the bell on the ice-cream truck that announced its arrival in our neighborhood.

It didn't matter how hot the weather was or how tired we were or who we were fighting with at the time. Whatever we were doing came to a halt. Our ears perked up, and our eyes focused on empty space until we were quite sure we had heard what we thought we had heard.

Then we came alive and began salivating like Pavlov's dogs. Our only goal in life at that moment was to hunt down a nickel, and when we found one we shot out the door barefooted, chasing after the only thing that mattered in life.

Pure fun

Life was simple back then: no real responsibilities, just pure fun. Then, too quickly come the teenage years, term papers, romances, employment, marriage, children and, before you knew it, the ice-cream truck was just a faint memory.

We're ensconced in the pressures of financial security and material accumulation for a while. After all, we have a family to raise, a mortgage to pay, kids to put through college. But normally (and, I think, naturally), as time passes, we complete the full circle. We return to a time when simple things make us happy. We finally locate our ice-cream truck. It won't be the same clanging bell, but, whatever it is, it is just as uncomplicated and probably twice as appreciated.

Let me share a story with you about some friends of mine. Throughout this account, I will refer to them as Claude and Claudia.

Hold the fort

Claude's a businessman. Claude's wife (Claudia) is a businesswoman. Like most Americans with grown children, they have the freedom that they didn't have when their kids were younger.

Claudia finds herself being sent by her employer all over the country at various times of the year on business trips. Claude, being the hip kind of guy he is holds down the fort while she's gone.

Of course, being a man, his definition of holding down the fort is different from hers. Women tend to translate that into maintaining some semblance of order within the household. Men translate that into having to buy their own beer.

But Claude is also a sensitive man. He knows that after five days on the road Claudia will appreciate coming back to a home she can actually walk through without needing a tetanus shot.

Out of this sensitivity came the soul-searching we are currently all experiencing. One evening when Claudia was on a business trip, Claude wisely decided to put the house back in order for his darling's impending return.

Heading for the kitchen

Happiness for a woman, in the simplest of terms, is seeing people clean up after themselves. (It doesn't even have to be someone you know. Women will bestow knighthood upon a teenager seen transferring trash from a vehicle to a roadside garbage receptacle.)

Claude, being a sensitive man, not having Claudia around all week, had really begun to appreciate all she does for him. He wanted to make her happy, to be her ice-cream truck.

Starting at the back of the house, Claude picked up the dirty clothes, made the bed, gave the bathroom sink a quick wipe-down and then headed for the kitchen.

Men do two things when they clean the kitchen. Everything is either thrown out or put in the dishwasher. No one really knows what Claude was trying to put in the dishwasher, but, while allegedly bending over and shoving something in (there were no witnesses), he suddenly experienced unbearable pain in his lower back. The next day he went to work with a cane and later on in the day downgraded to the use of a walker. He was in some serious pain.

Physically, after several weeks, he recovered and returned to his normal, healthy self. But as friends we're concerned about Claude's emotional health. We've been left with some serious questions that need answers.

Like why did the previously sensitive Claude come to the conclusion that he should have known better than to have ever attempted such a feminine act as loading the dishwasher?

Why is he convinced that he's not built for such tasks, that his center of gravity is just not low enough?

How could he take Claudia's ice-cream truck away when she was just rediscovering where her happiness lies? Intellectually, I know that we all have to answer those questions for ourselves, but it's my theory that, if Claude hadn't tried to jump right in cold turkey, he would never have injured himself.

Any athlete knows that a daily training schedule is the key to avoiding serious injury.

Although Claude has recovered physically, can he ever recover emotionally from this trauma? Will dishwashers ever be safe for the male operator? Most important, will Claudia ever find her ice-cream truck again?

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