The ride to Buffalo seemed as close to forever as my five year old mind could grasp. Blankets and pillows were set up in the way back seat of our Ford Station Wagon. My brothers and I slept there with nothing but boredom to keep us occupied. Seeing a night turn to day and then almost night again defined the ride as forever. Being, old enough to say “Back in the day” there were no hand held games, x boxes, I-pads, texting devices, just meager little things like fingers, cassette tapes, and road signs. Tracing word and letters, tapping songs, looking for the alphabet on road signs- helped forever seem a little bit like “just a long time”.
The light at the end of the tunnel was seeing Bells Grocery Store which was walking distance from my Grandparents house. Then forever changed into now when we saw the white picket fence and the white two story house that seemed to stick its neck out just upon seeing our station wagon glide towards house number 118. I remember kisses from my Grandma’s fresh lipstick and my Grandpa’s prickles. I remember a hearty dinner with the family army. Then, when the table was cleared, the moment had come. The moment I had been waiting for the whole forever car ride.
“Grandma, could you please put on Slow Joe?” I pleaded.
“Sure Sweetie, ” (Sweet Grandma said it and meant it.)
Grandma had it ready to go probably since after breakfast. The drop of the needle and the music began. All twenty something of us crammed and cozy, got a little quieter. The music began and I began stare off into wonderment.
“Once there was a middle sized boy who liked peppermint ice cream. His name was Joe and he was a slow boy. Sometimes he talked like this- Hel-lo! Sometimes he walked just like this: step, step, step, step, – Sometimes Joe just liked being slow “
Not the most thrilling beginning but thrilling enough for me.
“One day Joe was at his Grandmother’s house. Joe’s Grandmother made some autumn vegetable soup. Grandmother poured some into a kettle and said “Now, Joe, you take that soup right down the hill to mother. Joe started down the hill. Step , Step, Step, … a wiggly green caterpillar came wiggling by. He walked down the hill with caterpillar – step, step, step, – Along came the milkman.
“Do caterpillars like- pep-per-mint ice- cream? ” asks Joe.
“No, Joe, caterpillars like green leaves. But look! There’s a hole in that kettle, you better hurry home before all the soup is gone. ” says the milkman.
Does Slow Joe hurry along? No, he continues slowly noticing all the little but important things in life. Slow Joe, the dear little boy who liked peppermint ice cream steps about carefully and slowly in life just because he wants too.
The drama builds as it begins to rain. The French horn plays a perfect rendition of real rain. Two drops of rain fall plink plink into the kettle of soup. Soon, it was raining all around. And Joe went slowly down the hill, step, step, step- ( the base playing the perfect staccato) down the hill farther and farther away from the peppermint ice cream. Now there’s not one leak but two. And its raining. Just picture being young. You’ve been told to do something. Yet, it is a hard something. And all you want is your peppermint ice cream! The suspense was just as alive then as it is now for me.
“Joe, you saved the soup! ” says his mother. “Now, what you do want, an apple, a cookie or what?
Poor Joe knows that there wasn’t any peppermint ice cream to speak of in the house. So he just says- “Give me a crumb of bread, a slurp of mud, and a green leaf.” Slow Joe who paid attention with wonderment to the little things in life, plans to go back and give the ant, caterpillar, and worm, a treat even though HE wasn’t getting anything. Even after saving the soup from leaking out and getting washed with rain water! Dear Sweet Joe.
“Joe, I was going to ask you to go to the ice cream store, but it will be closed in another minute! ”
After one second of pondering peppermint ice cream, he takes the money, the mud, the leaf, and the crumb and moves like a race horse, airplane, motorcycle…..( the trumpet is blaring- its the perfect racing musical instrument)
I am doing circles around grandma’s dining room table at this moment. I stop with heavy breathing just like Joe. Life becomes fast, exciting, and deliciously wonderful. Joe eats the peppermint ice cream cone from top to bottom – Lick! Lick! Lick! Because Joe liked peppermint ice cream! I chime in along with the story-the most perfect ending in the whole world.
The forever drive day ended with Slow Joe. We were finally at Grandma’s. The story was just as good as it always was. It still is.
“Thanks Grandma!” I say after it is all over.
“You are welcome, sweetie.” she says. Sweet Grandma said it and meant it.
The Simple Slow Joe, the boy that took forever, was the story I looked forward to after the forever to Buffalo. A gift from Grandma telling us that forever wasn’t so bad. Now, forty some years later, I have shared it with my own kids who take the same delight in this boy who took forever to do a simple task. Yet, Slow Joe, is a story that will be slow to leave our minds. Maybe it will take forever.
By the way, you can listen to it on Youtube. Just search Slow Joe and the peppermint ice cream. Maybe its a great forever for you too.