It costs fifty cents to ride this ice cream truck outside the new Food Emporium in town. It only takes quarters, by the way. The first two times we went to this supermarket, I just let her sit in it. I didn’t put any quarters in because:
A. I didn’t have any quarters in my purse.
B. I didn’t want her to only enjoy this ride if the thing was shaking and bouncing with the creepy soundtrack of little kids giggling and yelling for ice cream. I didn’t want every trip to this supermarket to turn into a quest for quarters and subsequent tears if I had a purse full of dimes and pennies and cough drops as usual.
We visited this supermarket after school for the third time the other day. She informed me in the parking lot that “There is a ride in there. Come see!” and I pretended to not know what she was talking about. So the deal was that if Miriam was a good girl while we did our shopping, she could sit in the ice cream truck on the way out.
We went through the produce section identifying all the vegetables she has no plans on eating. We went through the cereal and fruit rollup aisle identifying all the Disney characters and movie merchandising tie-ins. Trolls, Moana, Secret Life of Pets. We counted out 12 yogurts for $10 and she threw them into the shopping cart with such force that I prayed they wouldn’t break with every pitch. None did. Whew.
Miriam put our items onto the conveyor one by one, announcing loudly what everything was. She said hello to the cashier with such excitement that the obviously tired lady couldn’t help but eek out a hello herself. I know what that’s like. The endless parade of people and sometimes you just don’t have a smile for them anymore.
We said goodbye and headed towards the exit. The ice cream truck was ready. Miriam climbed right in as I moved my cart to the side to get out of the way of the people rushing out on this Friday night. I took some pictures of her and texted them to my husband who was still at work. I let her play as long as she liked in the ice cream truck. There really was no reason to rush out. No reason at all. It was cold enough for the ten yogurts and the gallon of milk. I didn’t have to pee. Miriam didn’t have to pee. Like I said, no reason to rush.
I started to dig through my purse for quarters. I wanted to see what this truck could do. I found one quarter and must’ve looked for the second quarter for another ten minutes. I checked every compartment, pocket, and crevice. And all the while I was debating in my head the pros and cons of giving Miriam this ice cream truck upgrade. I made a deal with myself. If I found the second quarter, then it was simply a no brainer. Start the freaking ice cream truck engine! If I didn’t find a second quarter, well then she’d be none the wiser. No gain, no loss. Life stays simple.
And then the second quarter appeared in the coin pocket of my wallet. I never even use the coin pocket of my wallet. The only other thing I keep in there is something called a Kaddish card. It has the Jewish prayer for mourners on it. Hebrew on one side, English on the other. I’ve had this card in my wallet since the day we left the funeral home after my son, Noah, died. I think I just grabbed it off a brochure table and clung to it for dear life ever since. It’s never been taken very far out of my wallet. I like having it there. I like watching its edges fray. It’s like a clock of sorts for me. How time continues from that day.
Every single day does not have to be magical. For me or for Miriam. But it is. Whether I would’ve found the second quarter or not, this trip to Food Emporium would’ve been enough either way. For her and for me. I want her to learn that the ice cream truck doesn’t always have to shake for it to be fun. And sometimes we don’t always find a second quarter.
This explosive thankfulness I have for this second chance at motherhood sometimes gets in the way of Miriam’s need and desire to live a normal life with “bursts” of magical. But the kicker/paradox is that, for me, all of it is magical. The mundane is magical. The unremarkable moments. The ‘we should be doing something educational’ moments. The ‘we should be wearing pants’ moments. It took my four-year old to teach me that everyday does not have to be magical and yet it is.
I put the second quarter in. Miriam was thrilled. The ice cream truck shook and bounced. It was adorable. The soundtrack of the children singing coming from the speakers sounded less creepy. All was good. The yogurt was still cold. The milk was fine. The ride was over. We went home to tell Daddy all about it.