Thursday, July 15, 2010
Stopping at the Lemonade Stand
Warren and I were westbound on Pennsylvania Avenue, headed to the gas station with a gas can so we could determine whether his truck was out of gas or worse. As I drove slowly past the line of houses, I saw two young boys jumping up and down in a front yard, waving enthusiastically at passing motorists.
"Lemonade here! Stop for lemonade!"
The sign said 25¢.
I waved as I drove past. At the gas station, while Warren pumped the gas, I scrabbled through the divider console and found a quarter. When Warren got back in, I handed it to him.
"What's this for?"
"We're stopping at that lemonade stand on the way back."
Warren raised his eyebrows but didn't object. I retraced our route, slowing and pulling off the road right in front of the two boys.
Their eyes lit up and the younger one yelled, "Oh boy!"
They were probably about eight and six, just old enough to be handling a lemonade stand, and still young enough for it to be exciting and fun. An older man, Grandpa by the looks of it, hung in the back, watching, but letting them do all the work.
Warren showed them the quarter. "One, please."
The two boys consulted and the little boy got very serious.
"Orange or lemonade?"
"Lemonade," I called out through the window.
The bigger boy said something to him and the littler boy turned to us again, all work. "How many ice?"
We chuckled at his grammar but got the point. "One," I said.
Together, the two boys got the paper cup, extracted one ice cube from a cooler, and slowly, carefully, filled the cup. Grandpa hovered nearby, but let them do it. In my rearview mirror, I saw another car slow and pull up behind me.
The little boy carefully walked the now full glass over to our car, using both hands and never taking his eyes off of the contents. He sighed with relief when Warren took the cup from him. When Warren handed over the quarter, the little boy got a huge grin on his face.
Grandpa called out his thanks, I think as a gentle prompt to the boys. I'm not sure they heard as the older one saw the car that had come up behind us and was jumping up and down.
"Oh boy, customers!"
Many years ago, I read Stopping at Every Lemonade Stand, by James Vollbracht. Subtitled How to Create a Culture That Cares for Kids, it is about creating community by starting with the children in the community. It is about reconnecting children - and ourselves - to our families, our blocks, our neighborhoods, and the world beyond. His work takes small steps, child-size steps, starting with what we already have at hand and building from there. Vollbracht believes that children need meaningful, positive connections with adults in their everyday lives. Tonight, when we stopped and I saw the two boys leap up and down with delight, I understood exactly what Vollbracht was saying.
As we drove off, I said to Warren, "that was why I wanted to stop."
I wanted to stop to see those grins. To hear that glee ("Oh boy, customers!"). To watch them dance with anticipation.
I'm hoping those boys always remember the summer they had a lemonade stand in Grandpa's front yard.
I think they will.