At the sight of it, the boy races to tie on his sneakers as his mom hands him a dollar. (Can you still buy ice cream for a dollar?)
The rest of his friends are done with their transactions and are walking away from the Good Humor truck with red, white and blue rocket ice pops, Nutty Buddies and ice cream sandwiches.
But the little boy we see from a first person vantage point races down his stoop and into the street just fast enough for the ice cream man to notice him. He waits.
The boy buys a Fat Frog or a Bubble O Bill. (They are both the same thing: ice cream with a chocolate back and a gumball for a nose.) The boy is victorious – smiling with a green tongue as the truck drives away.
As he heads up his driveway with his treat, his dog startles him. He jumps and drops the ice cream.
The truck, with its carnival like siren song, is gone. If I were a method actor, that is the trick that I would use to bring tears to my eyes. No other scene could make me sadder quicker. Not the time I failed the parallel parking part of the driver’s test, not getting dumped, not even sitting in a cubicle all day selling whatchamacallits.
Why is that? I certainly ran faster and spent more money to please girls. And I certainly never felt like I missed the boat (or ice cream truck as the case may be) more than in my previous sales career.
It’s as if the events of childhood and the feelings they bring pass through a magnifying glass for most of us. “Enjoy it now, kid,” relatives said. “These are the best days of your life!”
Even though people of all ages are wired the same – physically experience emotions and sensations in the same way – we seem to become jaded from just being around. Our passion fades.
Psychotherapist Wayne Allen agrees that children are more “in the moment.”
“That’s why they can be having a tantrum one moment and giggling with pleasure in the next,” he said.
He adds that people stop experiencing life spontaneously as they gain a sense of past and future.
“They begin to question their experience, its validity, and pack onto it what others have told them they ought to be experiencing and feeling,” Allen said.
Judgment tempers joy and then the responsibilities pile on. Concerns over rising gas prices and car insurance payments override the thrill of driving.
Of course judgment isn’t a bad thing. It’s needed for living and dealing with others safely. That is why we don’t want a kid behind the wheel of a car.
But we let this evaluation process take the wind out of our sails when we over-think things. That’s when it reaches a point of diminishing returns.
Turning back the clock on this feedback loop isn’t an option. But we can hit the reset button and recapture the joy of youth from time to time, according to Allen.
“Commit to freeing one’s spirit, to fully and completely experience life,” Allen said.
We have all heard about the importance of being in the moment, but being there and taking it in without worry is easier said than done.
Picturing a child filled with joy from something as simple as ice cream contrasted with the random, real world events that sometimes cause him to drop that ice cream helps me to peel away the layers and open myself up to the moment.