Wednesday, August 15, 2018

lemonade for sale


 *****

Earlier this summer Charlotte decided to set up a table at the end of our driveway to display her shell and rock collection. She carefully spread out a couple dozen rocks, gems, and shells including a few unique standouts, but mostly dirty stones found in our backyard. I helped her make a sign that read Please Don't Take - Just Look, and she raided the pantry for candy to create a small bowl of goodies for her visitors.


I watched from the window as she stood by her table waiting for a passerby to attend her "Rock Festival." Unfortunately, attendance started off pretty slow. Charlotte attempted to engage a dog walker who quickly brushed her off saying she didn't have any money. Cars rushed by without tapping the brakes, and even a bike rider pretended not to hear her calling, "Would you like to see my rock collection?" My mama heart was feeling bad for her, hoping at least one person would take pity and pause to look.

Eventually a pair of sweet power walkers stopped. These ladies were probably in their sixties and took to Charlotte right away, asking questions about each rock and admiring the ones that really sparkled. These first attendees motivated Charlotte to continue her festival into the afternoon hours. She even recruited Andrew to help wave down cars, and much to my surprise, the Rock Festival had anywhere from five to ten visitors throughout the day. One lady pulled her car over and came out with a change purse.

"Oh, I thought you were selling lemonade," she said to Charlotte.

And this, my friends, was the start of the lemonade stand.

*****

"Can we have a lemonade stand tonight?" they asked as they barged through the screen door just after 5:00 pm. This group of neighborhood playmates, ranging in ages two to ten, had asked me three evenings in a row if they could have a lemonade stand. I again explained to them that the best lemonade stands take a few days for planning. They needed signs, maybe balloons, and more importantly, a parent willing to make the lemonade. Plus, there was Stephen Becker to consider. This man lives for social opportunities to go above and beyond. Neighborhood lemonade stand? I knew he would not want to miss this. 

"Not tonight," I said to the kitchen full of disappointed darlings. "But I will text all your moms right now, and we can set a date."


The week leading up to Sunday, August 5 was exhilarating. Charlotte, our budding artist, happily took over the responsibility of flyer making. Stephen made 100 copies. Did I mention he likes to go big? Days before the lemonade stand, Stephen took the children around the neighborhood to pass out flyers. They rehearsed  a script that included a polite introduction and invitation. You can imagine how the baby boomers swooned.


Stephen and our neighbor divvied up the adult responsibilities. We'd get the lemonade; she'd get the ice. We'd get the poster boards; she'd get the balloons. It all seemed simple enough until Stephen started talking about streamers and banners and disconnecting the play store from our basement wall to bring outside. I rolled my eyes when he started texting links to lemon costumes, and I had to step in and say no when he found a bright yellow spandex bodysuit. 


Sunday morning felt like a holiday; the anticipation of the special day had us all feeling extra happy. Charlotte and Andrew brought flyers to church to spread the word past the confounds of our neighborhood. After a quick lunch, we set out again to deliver one final round of flyers. The kids put in a strong last effort, but after 45 minutes, the 90 degree sun baked us into exhaustion, and we had to come home and rest up before the grand opening at 3:00.

It was just after 2:00, and I was upstairs feeding Milo. I heard Stephen open the front door and yell, "Customers! We already have our first customers!"

It was true. Despite the 3-6 pm time frame that was clearly written on the flyer, people starting coming by the moment we began setting up. Apparently the signs, balloons, and colorful awning really did the trick. We all rushed around setting up the final details and instructing the children on the importance of quality customer service.

"Be sure to greet each customer with a smile."

"Explain their options - regular lemonade, pink lemonade, and limeade."

"You can never touch the ice with your dirty hands."

"Don't lick your fingers."

"Ask if they would like a garnish." (Did I mention Stephen cut up lemon and lime slices for a garnish?)

"Say thank you."

"Say have a nice day."

"Say thank you again."

"Don't touch the ice!"

"Smile!"





By the official start time, half the lemonade was already gone.

A few minutes later Stephen started laughing and said, "Look down the street!" Those hand delivered flyers were the magic touch because at that very moment, at least four separate families were walking up the street. The lemonade stand was drawing out the masses. We sent Stephen to the store for more lemonade at just about the time an Amazon delivery truck stopped in the middle of the road and bought two glasses. Stephen came back with eighteen cans of lemonade and a box of Lemonheads for an additional garnish. (No comment.) I am not being overly dramatic when I say there was a line of people backing out into the street. Cars were stopping in the middle of the road for window service; people were coming back for refills. One man even paid extra to have Andrew deliver a cup to a neighbor up the road. It was amazing and crazy all at once.






The children were working at full speed and with top notch customer service. They learned to quickly scoop the ice, fill the cup, add a garnish, and deliver with a smile. Andrew was especially impressive, displaying early bartending skills that made us proud. His chubby three-year-old hands figured out how to use the tongs to pick up a lemon slice, and it was downright adorable. Granted he ate 27 Lemonheads in the process, but who wouldn't? Our sweet neighbors were overly generous, and the tiny IKEA cash register was soon overflowing.




I snuck inside for a few minutes to lay Milo down for a nap. As I walked back outside, I had to stop to watch and take in the moment. Our driveway was filled with children and strollers and wagons and neighbors and dogs - some meeting for the first time and some catching up with friends - all standing around drinking lemonade. Our little family had helped create this moment - this memory. I complain about our house all the time and often wish we lived somewhere else. But as I watched our kids experience the ultimate childhood summer memory, I was so thankful for our home, our neighborhood, our neighbors, and my little team.



We all crashed by 6:00. Stephen grilled burgers and hot dogs as the neighbors all celebrated the success of childhood. We left the lemonade out as a free self-serve stand, and the kids sat around with dirty feet and sticky faces as they counted piles of quarters.

It was a great success of summer done right.




P.S. Sending Stephen to the store for more lemonade was a mistake. We currently have thirteen cans of frozen lemonade (and limeade! and pink lemonade! and raspberry lemonade!) left over in our freezer. God love him.


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