One of my fondest memories of childhood involves sitting at the end of my driveway hawking lemonade. It was a simple business, but it was my first one, and sometimes when I’m driving I want a cup of the warm, watery stuff more than anything in the world.
Before heading out, my best friend Kristin and I would sit in the kitchen and make a batch of the powdered variety in my mom’s chocolate brown Tupperware pitcher. Then we’d attach a tiny sign on a huge plank of plywood. “Lemonade for sale,” it would say in crooked letters. “Just 5 cents.” Usually, we would draw delicious looking, yet small, lemons on the sign, thinking we were incredibly, incredibly clever.
We’d haul a card table, the jug and the plywood to the end of my considerable driveway. Inevitably, we’d run back to the house for pens, paper and a calculator in order to make formal receipts for our customers — just in case they wanted to write off their purchase for tax purposes.
Then we’d sit and wait.
We lived in Headingley, a little suburb just outside of Winnipeg that was populated almost exclusively by dual-income families. Consequently, the roads of Headingley, Manitoba were pretty dead during the day. Another drawback was Seekings Street, where I lived, wasn’t paved, just covered with a thick layer of remarkably sharp gravel. This resulted in Kristin and I eating a whole lot of dust during our lemonade-selling days. Which, in turn, meant we drank a lot of our product away.
When the juice jug was empty, one of us would sprint back to the house. The key was to make the lemonade as fast as humanly possible so as not to keep potential customers waiting. They weren’t waiting, had not even considered our stand, of course, but the thrill was all in the possibility. That second batch of lemonade was usually sorely inferior to the first, with clumps of powder still floating on the still-clear water. No matter though, the drink got veritably churned as I dashed back down the driveway, arriving breathless and sticky.
“No one came,” Kristin would inform me.
“Oh,” I’d say, thirsty from my run.
“Could I offer you some lemonade at no charge?” she’d ask, taking great pleasure in pushing in the Tupperware push-top button that never really worked.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
When we actually did get customers, we’d be so nervous it took at least five minutes to serve them. I’d pull out the calculator and start adding up the bill for two cups of lemonade.
“That will be, ugh, just a sec.” I’d frantically clear the calculator and punch the numbers in again. “That will be 10 cents.”
“We’re on summer vacation,” Kristin would explain as the customer stared at the powdered calculator. “We don’t want to have to think before school starts.”
As you might have gathered, no one ever accused us of being the coolest kids on the block.
The best thing about the whole transaction was when the customer would throw a dollar our way for his cup of lemonade.
“Keep the change,” he’d say before driving off and blasting us with a fresh spray of gravel.
“Thanks!” we’d squeak, blinking bravely, desperately.
These memories came back to me as I was driving by the splash pad on Mill Street in London this week. There were the kids squealing under the spouts. There were other kids swinging and climbing and whooping. There were the parents smiling and watching. Imagine if there were some enterprising pip-squeaks willing to set up a lemonade stand. They’d make a killing.
This column originally ran in The Sentinel-Echo in June 2010.