It's 4:45. I'm starting dinner. Fried chicken, corn bread, and baked beans. I've been craving Southern food ever since I started reading The Help. I hear a tinkling musical sound outside in the distance as I shake thin strips of chicken in a bag of seasoned flour.
I grew up in a busy suburb just shy of Detroit city. But right in the middle of the sprawling, dirty, asphalt was a little oasis. A tiny, dirt road with a sign marked "Private" at each end. The huge trees were left undisturbed in large patches on the street, arching over and almost touching in spots. Little paths took off through the woods here and there. Lilac bushes bloomed on the roadside. Shrieking pheasants and bushy red squirrels ran zig zag across the street. This is where I lived. And this shady, forested lane is a big part of who I turned out to be. I loved it there. I loved wandering over the wooded slope that made up our back yard. I loved exploring the Rouge River that flowed by the edge of the trees at the bottom of the hill. I loved looking for snapping turtles under the mushy black leaves in the pond, halfway down. I pretended I was an explorer. I pretended I was an Indian. I pretended I was a Nancy Drew. It was heaven.
But there was one real downside to living on this little dirt road, aside from the huge potholes that would form after every heavy rain: No ice cream trucks ever dared venture down our street. We all dreamed of hearing the high tinkling sound of the ice cream truck coming. We fantasized about running out of our house on a hot summer day, our pockets jingling with coins. We imagined the taste of exotic ice cream concoctions oozing down our chins. But dreams of mobile ice cream were all they ever were. We never once saw the ice cream man's smile or tasted anything but the square cardboard box kind of ice cream, stale from our freezer.
And that is why, at 4:45, just before dinner, I am passing out two dollars and fifty cents in change to each of my kids as they run towards the tinkling sound of The Entertainer driving towards our house. I'm trying to set the Universe right, in my own little way.