Chasing moments of beauty in the time of coronavirus
The joy can be so sharp and quick that it hurts.
A  pelican soars over Tampa Bay moments after sunrise near Bay Vista Park one day last week.
A pelican soars over Tampa Bay moments after sunrise near Bay Vista Park one day last week. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published April 1, 2020

We heard the sound above the din of cartoons.

Was that… it couldn’t be. I moved a curtain to the side. Indeed, a real ice cream truck was heading down our street on a Friday afternoon. Not the kind of hip city truck that goes to food truck rallies. The kind of beat-up white truck with strawberry shortcake bars papering the side, all corn syrup and sticky summer memories.

“Should we chase it?” my stepdaughter asked.

Nah. Mostly, we were overrun with sweets. We had just stressed-baked an entire berry pie and a platter of cookies. The freezer was full of ice cream, which I had bought to top off the warm baked goods when we ate ourselves sick as a new and exciting hobby.

More truthfully, I didn’t want us grabbing SpongeBob pops off a truck of unknown provenance, because I’m suspicious of everything and I hate it. I was never this way before. I pictured the coronavirus traveling from the yellow surface of the bag to our mouths, to our throats, to our lungs, enveloping us like an eager, evil ivy.

Then, the truck was gone. Regret set in. The driver would have been a great interview. We could have discussed how ice cream trucks were the original curbside delivery, to-go before to-go existed. I could have photographed the cold and creamy hero leaning out the window, surrounded by a frozen rainbow of purity.

The days are so long. The moments of beauty are so fleeting.

There are times I’m completely overwhelmed by this house. We are Luke, Leia and Han in the trash compactor, waiting for a droid to shut down the crushing walls.

There are times I’m so grateful for this house. So many do not have so much.

There are times I’m wracked with grief for the world. With anger. With fear.

And there are times I’m so overcome with joy, it’s painful. Sitting on the stoop watching my family play catch. Having a squirt gun fight in the yard. Eating dinner on the porch, not saying much of anything. The happiness is in stark relief when the canvas never seems to change.

The sun still goes up and down. People are parking their cars along the street now just to watch it happen. When we walk in the evenings, they shout from open windows. Isn’t it a beautiful night? They wave. They smile. There’s a desperation to it.

We spent the rest of the weekend with a plan. When the truck came back, because of course it would, the kid would take off like a Rocket Pop and stop it.

I peered out the window at least 10 times. Maybe I missed it in the shower. Maybe the TV was too loud. Maybe the truck driver gave up because no one trusts anything. Or maybe he found a better street. Maybe the beauty was still out there.

We scooped our own ice cream and ate it in heaping spoonfuls.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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