Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gemini Kelly's ice cream truck

You hear Gemini Kelly's So Icy ice cream truck before you see it, the tinny music-box melodies ringing out like clarion calls to the people of the South Seattle neighborhoods on her route, jarring them off sofas and porches to form tight clusters in the street.

Because Kelly's rounds take her through stretches plagued by poverty, gang violence and broken homes, those sugar-rush-inducing tunes and dollar treats bring moments of much-needed levity.

The 33-year-old Kelly, a single mother of three whose own youth was a succession of hard knocks, can relate.

Kids refer to her warmly as the Ice Cream Lady, but she relishes her alternate role as curbside big sister.

"When they see this truck, they're smiling and laughing, but then they come up to you and they start crying: How do I tell them, 'Baby, it's gonna be OK?' " Kelly says. "I've had times that I've had to get out of the truck and cry with them."

"I give out a lot of hugs," she says. "I keep a box of Kleenex for the tears."

She also keeps freebies on hand for kids whose parents approach the truck with sad eyes that tell her, even before a word is uttered, they can't afford items on the menu.

"You have to go back in that house and carry the weight of the world, but for that one moment, you'll have one aspect of being a kid," Kelly says. "I remember running for the ice cream man. I remember what my mom went through when she wasn't able to get ice cream for me."

Kelly sees her job as not just a way to make a living but a kind of crusade.

And if sinking teeth into the cold depths of a Col. Crunch Strawberry Shortcake, her top seller, redeems one afternoon in a kid's ho-hum life, more power to Popsicles.

The Ice Cream Lady's motto is, "Restoring smiles, one Popsicle at a time."

By the end of the day, though, the biggest smile may be her own.

-By Tyrone Beason


Derrick Trucks said...

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Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such articles. I like to read blogs like that. By the way add more pics :)

All images copyright Erika Schultz or The Seattle Times