“What size cups do you want?” Mom and Dad were back from the store, and as I was rummaging through the bags, I couldn’t find it.
“Where is it?” I asked impatiently.
Almost crushing the loaf of Roman Meal bread that Dad always had to have.
Mom was quick to locate it in the 11 bags they just brought in from the car.
Grocery trips were just that… Trips. Excursions. LONG events.
Big family. Lots of stuff. Usually they only went once a month and got everything we needed for the menu they would create before leaving.
We had our meals planned out daily, and there wasn’t much straying from it.
As she cut opened the new canister of Country Time Lemonade, I started to get out the pitcher and the mixing spoon.
I was wasting time. What if the big customer of the day just drove by and won’t be back again?
My table and chairs were all set up. I was ready to go.
Just needed to make the lemonade.
I learned quickly the value of mixing it right. If it was too watery, no one would come back.
If it was warm, they wouldn’t feel refreshed on a 97 degree day.
If it was too sweet, well… I couldn’t think of a reason when I was nine years old that being too sweet was an issue… but I am sure now there are about a hundred.
The ice clanked around my wooden spoon in my yellow pitcher as I spun it in circles. Almost willing it to hurry up.
As I ran out with my cups and lemonade in hand, I raced to the sidewalk where my table was slightly tilted next to the hill I was on. The cracks in the sidewalk made it even harder to find solid ground.
I inched the table toward the driveway, so if anyone wanted to stop, they would have the ability to pull in off the street.
Good thinking, I praised myself.
And with a smile and three beads of sweat, I sat down ready to open my business.
Just in that moment, a blue Buick pulled up and opened it’s door.
Out stepped a man in a business suit.
I looked at him for a second and immediately felt scared.
Not sure if I watched crime shows as a kid the way I do now, or I just was hearing my mother’s sermon about talking to strangers.
And all of a sudden I started to question what I was doing.
Is the lemonade worth it? Will this man kidnap me, and my lemonade? Would he at least leave the chairs, I think my mom really liked them.
With a deep, booming voice, enough to scare the dog down the street, he said hello.
The scared, shy little girl under the hat and ponytail with a bow was ready to bolt.
My business woman instinct kicked in.
“Would you like to buy my lemonade?”
“Well, yes, I sure would.”
He smiled a huge toothy grin. Somehow I was at ease, even though he towered over me and my table.
I started to pour a small white cup full as he reached in his pocket.
He pulled out a twenty-dollar bill.
My head was racing. “OH NO… I forgot to get change……”
I would have to give it to him for free. I couldn’t give him enough change. Actually, I couldn’t give him any change since he was my first customer.
He put the twenty in my shoebox and started to walk away.
“This is the best lemonade I have had in years.”
I was dumbfounded… actually speechless. What do I do now?
Do I chase after him with the twenty. He will surely pull me into his car and take me away then…
I called out. My soft, shy voice trying to be loud. Cracking all the way.
“Sir? You forgot your change…. actually….”
And as I was about to inform him that I didn’t have change and that he needed to just come take his money back, he turned and shot me another one of his huge grins.
“Keep the change kid. This is how I got started too. And now, I own a business in New York. You will make it some day. Just keep your heart bigger than your ego.”
And that was my moment.
The shy kid who didn’t know if anyone would buy her lemonade only sold one cup her first day.
I ran in the house screaming, to the point that mom came running to see what happened.
“This man, he owns a business. And my lemonade is the best he’s had in a long time, and he gave me a lot of money. A lot. And didn’t want change. He was so nice.”
Mom looked at me puzzled and just started to laugh.
“So where is the rest of your lemonade?” She asked with a chuckle.
And with that, I went out to collect my belongings.
It was too hot anyway.
I would rather share my lemonade with mom.
And all these years later, I have never not stopped at a lemonade stand I have seen on the side of the road with that same unsure little girl or boy.
And I make sure I pay that twenty dollar bill forward.