The familiar clanging echoes through the humid air and my red-cheeked children run with their friends, dollars in hand, to buy a frozen treat to cool them down. School is out, tomorrow is Memorial Day, and the ice cream man is another reminder that summer has officially begun.
Our last neighborhood didn't have an ice cream truck, so my kids think it's way cool to experience something they've only ever seen on TV.
I don't remember my childhood neighborhood having an ice cream truck, either. But my grandmother's old neighborhood in Atlanta had one, and you know how doting grandparents are.
We always - and I mean always - got ice cream when the truck came around.
My poor children may or may not get ice cream, depending on how generous their old Ma is feeling that particular day.
Grandparents are ever so much better than parents when it comes to stuff like that.
I remember one hot Sunday morning at my grandparents' little red house.
It sat atop a hill, surrounded by huge pecan trees, fluffy blue hydrangeas and colorful roses.
My sisters and I were already playing in the shady side yard. I was maybe four or five, dressed in my usual summer play clothes - a pair of shorts and nothing else.
My grandmother had the most wonderful little metal toy stove and refrigerator, and we girls were busy making mud pies for the tiny oven.
So there were three dirty, barefoot little girls, having a blast, when the familiar bell rang.
And my grandmother came running down the front steps as she always did, waving a dollar bill in the air to flag down the driver.
I can still see her shiny black hair and pointy glasses reflecting the sun, her sleeveless pink oxford shirt tied up around her waist; those tan polyester shorts and rubber flip flops she loved to wear.
But as the van rounded the corner and slowed down, it didn't look familiar. This is because it was a church bus, not the ice cream truck.
I still remember how we kids fell over laughing when the driver stopped to see if she needed a ride.
Later on, the real ice cream man came.
There was nothing better than those long summer days at my grandmother's house, sitting half-naked in the shade, my orange sherbet Push-Up dripping down my bare chest.
My grandparents didn't have air conditioning, but we never noticed. I remember being made to lie down in the front bedroom for an afternoon nap, even when I wasn't sleepy.
Now of course, I realize it was because my poor, exhausted grandparents needed a break.
I can still feel that orange-fringed gold bedspread beneath me, the box fan running full blast in the window, lying there daydreaming for what felt like hours while my sister dozed in the other twin bed.
It felt like my little brain would never shut off, and my son, Eli, is just like that now, always thinking and planning and dreaming of something new. I hope he never loses that trait.
I wish we could have summer without the blistering heat, but I am so glad that my kids get to enjoy these months of total downtime.
So many children today find their summers every bit as structured as the school year. I know that for many families, there isn't much choice in the matter.
I can't help but feel sorry for those kids, though. Summers are supposed to be relaxing when you're young. You're supposed to get bored, to whine about the heat, to wear skinned knees and ice cream mustaches, make mud pies and dig holes to China.
You're supposed to go to the library and leave with arms full of books, devour them stretched out on the floor by the air conditioner vent, and then go back the following week for more.
There's a Bible verse that says, "Be still and know that I am God." I can't think of another time of year that it's easier to do this, and that is the goal of the Apted household this summer.
We're going to do our best to just be still, unstructured, and relaxed.
As far as the "knowing" part of that passage - well, I know that some of the best things in life were reserved for discovery during a long, lazy summer. I'm thankful that it's time to start enjoying them.
Kari Apted may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.