BoomerCafé contributor Erin O’Brien is moving. After many years in Redondo Beach, California, she is off to Rhode Island. And of all things, her move has made her think with great nostalgia … about trucks. Maybe you’ll remember some of them too.
I heard it again the other day: a sound more hypnotic than the song of the Sirens as they lulled the captains’ ships into the rocky shores, a sound even more lovely than wedding church bells tolling. The faint music caused us all to stop in our tracks, mid-sentence, punctuating one of those perfect summer days of childhood.
The ice cream truck!
Barefooted, the neighborhood kids with our fistfuls of coins swarmed the little white truck as it slowed to a stop. I think that was my favorite truck.
And there was another truck: I knew he visited every day, but this truck was a ghost in the early morning hours. The metal basket my mom left on the front porch the night before with empty bottles was filled again: a half-gallon clear glass bottle of milk and a quart-sized one in brown.
My neighbor friend Linda’s dad was a milkman, and when she invited me to go with him on his rounds it sounded like fun, until she said we’d start out at 4:00 in the morning. But the milk truck was my other favorite truck, the one I never saw.
If you grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, you may have had yet another favorite truck: the Helm’s truck. “Toot-toot!” It stopped in front of our house because my mom always remembered to put out the blue Helms sign in the kitchen window.
It wasn’t quite as exciting as the ice cream truck, but when the tall man in his white uniform opened the back of his truck, the aroma of fresh loaves of bread wafted from the wooden drawers inside. If we were lucky, my mom would buy us each a giant sugar cookie from the Helmsman. Painted a light yellow hue, I think that was the prettiest truck.
But I must not neglect the shiniest truck of all. It did not carry ice cream, or milk, or bread. Yet Mom always told me to wave to the driver, and I still do. The firefighters seem to grow younger and handsomer every year!
As a young teacher I accompanied my class to the fire department on a field trip. We admired the fire engine, tried on the heavy uniform and hats, and watched a firefighter slide down the pole. But maybe some children were most transfixed when our guide opened the refrigerator, filled to capacity with cans of soda. There was an audible gasp in unison. But it couldn’t compare to the looks of awe by the female teachers and chaperones, caught on film, when we realized handsome firefighters from the local stations had convened for a meeting on the day of our visit.
And of course, there’s also Brown. I always recognize the sound of this truck, and although it is not a pretty yellow or a shiny red, and does not deliver ice cream or milk or bread, sometimes good things do come in surprising packages. Whenever I see the brown careening omnibus, the UPS truck, traveling down my street, I am a child again, waiting for the ice cream truck. “Please stop in front of my house!”
Another truck pulled away from our house the other day. A big one. In fact, it took a branch of the magnolia tree with it.
I’d said goodbye to each room, and thanked my house for sheltering us and holding our family and friends. I shared farewell hugs with our neighbors and our gardener, and said goodbye to our mailman. Then I picked one last rose from our garden.
When the moving van pulled away, containing my mother’s wedding dress, my old wooden toy high chair, and my photo albums, I thought out loud, “There goes my house…”
My husband put his arm around me as we stood in front of our empty house, and the long truck disappeared around the curve. “No,” he said, “Home is where you and I and the cats are.”
Maybe that’s my favorite truck. It holds my memories.