Over the years I’ve told dozens of stories about my father on this blog but there are a few of them that seem to stick with people more than others. When I talk to readers of this blog about my family they frequently ask me about my father and the ice cream man. For those of you who have never heard the story I’ve included it below. For those of you who already know it, you can skip past the italicized part to get to the very special follow-up to the story.
My Dad Vs. The Ice Cream Man
The kids on the block were not big fans of my dad, but not because he was mean to them. My dad has always been good to kids, and for a while they all liked him just fine. He kept himself in good standing through good Halloween candy and a liberal policy as far as playing in his yard went.
Then one day kids started crossing the street rather than walk past his house and the moms would sadly shake their heads as they drove past. All because my dad was a man who won’t budge from his principles.
Like most stories of a man fighting the system this one involves an ice cream man. This ice cream man seemed like your typical suburban vendor until my dad discovered a dark side. You see one afternoon he got a craving for an Italian ice, not just any one though, a Marino’s Italian Ice. I’m not sure if these are available outside of the New York and New Jersey area so if you’ve never heard of them they are pre packaged ice treats that come with a handy little wooden spoon things to eat them with. The spoon was not much of a spoon, just a flat little thing that looked kinda like a miniature paddle but they were as essential to Italian ice as a straw is to a milkshake.
When dad heard the ice cream man coming he ran outside to stop him, asked for a cherry flavored Italian ice, paid and then noticed that something was wrong. There was the ice but there was no wooden spoon.
“Hey where’s my spoon?”
-“I don’t have any spoons.”
Dad did what any reasonable man would do and said:
“Well I don’t want it then.”
-”You got spoons in your house don’t you?”
“That’s not the point, of course I have spoons in the house but when you eat one of these you gotta have a wooden spoon”
“Hey pal, I got no wooden spoons”
“Well you shouldn’t be selling these then…You’re a disgrace to your profession. I don’t know how you even became an ice cream man”
The ice cream man then said. “Look, here’s you dollar back you don’t have to be an asshole about it”
That was the wrong thing to say…unless you are an ice cream man looking to get an ass kicking on a summer day. As the ice cream man drove away he was reminded not to forget the wooden spoons next time.
Of course there was no next time. The block was absent of ice cream men after that day and the kids all knew why. My father was no longer the nice guy, he was the guy who made the ice cream man go away. The kids just didn’t understand yet that a man has to believe in something or he’s got no reason to go on living. It just happened that my father believed to his very core that an Italian ice was worthless without a wooden spoon and I can’t say I disagree with him.
Okay, we all know the story. Now let’s fast forward many years to a rainy Sunday morning on Long Island: I was sitting in a WWII themed restaurant (seriously) having brunch with my wife and my mother and father in law because my father had passed away. My dad’s wake was later that day and I was completely in shock (I still am to be honest with you). We were having brunch before going to the funeral home and my wife was staying close by in case I needed her. As I made my way across the breakfast buffet in a daze my wife took me by the hand and walked me over to the desert area where there was a freezer full of ice cream cups but more importantly, a stash of wooden spoons just like the ones that came with Marino’s Italian Ices. She put two of them in my hand and said: “Just in case the ice cream men in heaven run out” and that is why my father was buried with a little wooden spoon. This is also evidence that I have a wonderful wife who always knows the right thing to say and do.
For the record, the second spoon came back to LA with me. I’ll be keeping it in a safe spot, just in case I need it someday.