'The Ice-cream man' by Brenda Cook

I remember the Ice-cream man

In his ice-cream van

The music playing to let people know he’s around


He stops down my road at Wilton Close

The music playing until the people come out

Asking for wafers, lollies and cornets

I was first in the queue

I couldn’t reach the window

So I wore my sister’s high-heeled shoes

I felt big in her shoes

Because everyone called me titch

They all said I’d never grow up

It’s something they used to say to people with learning difficulties

And the ice-cream man still had to reach down to me.

Why do I remember the Ice-cream man now, after all this time?

Let me tell you how it was when I was a little girl:

My dad would tie the gate so I couldn’t get out

My family, too over-protective they were.

The teacher, she put a label on me: BACKWARD,

Holding me back, pinning me down with a name.

The playground attendant: always watching me

Taking away my independence.

The specialist saying I’d never grow up

Putting me right behind, making me believe him.

The other children stopping my freedom

By pushing me out and making me different.

But when my sister watched me

I could go out the gate, wear her shoes

To make me tall.

That was encouragement, just a taste of freedom

So when the Ice-cream man came she untied the gate

And I reached up to him for a sixpenny wafer.

I know he thought: look at that sweet little dot

She can’t reach up to me.

But he didn’t pin me down, he didn’t little me

He bent over to me, he talked nice and sweet,

He treated me with respect

He met me half way

And it is only communication

It is all I ever really wanted people to do

Us meeting equally

People reaching, people trying, to meet each other half way.