Extra Pulp: Simply Lemonade

You can always count on a child's lemonade stand to bring everyone together.

Davi Vallejo

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a sweet spot for lemonade stands. So when my boys asked to set one up, it rekindled fond childhood memories.

I hosted many lemonade stands growing up. My friend and I even practiced the ins and outs of the business on the game Lemonade Stand on her 1980s Macintosh computer, the one that looked like a bulky white cube with the green screen. Sometimes my mother would discover our entrepreneurial plans by the fliers we had already plastered all over the neighborhood. We made the lemonade ourselves from powdered mix and schlepped it to the corner near the library. 

At age 7, we already ruled the neighborhood. We ran in and out of houses—doors always open—rode our bikes through the alleyways and built forts in the kudzu gullies. We headed home when my mom rang the dinner bell, which still hangs outside my parents’ front porch. Those were the summers we first tasted freedom and started to gain our independence. 

As I drove my sons to Publix to buy the lemonade stand supplies, I realized how different their childhoods are from mine. I felt a longing for that simpler time when parents weren’t so overprotective, summers weren’t scheduled, and technology didn’t dominate our lives. 

Yet here we were, setting up our stand at the playground next to a popular Pokemon Go “PokeStop,’’ just down the street from our house in Celebration. Instead of posting fliers, I sent out a group text to our friends, and my girlfriend posted the news on the neighborhood Facebook page. We provided anti-bacterial gel, set up our recycling bins and even prepared bowls of water for dogs (the kids’ idea!). My husband and I supervised the setup, and when we got ready to open, I was actually nervous. 

Do people even buy sugar-laden lemonade anymore? Should we be having an organic juice bar instead or be selling kombucha? Are lemonade stands even allowed in Celebration? We are only permitted to have a yard sale on two designated days a year, and here we were operating a lemonade stand without a business license! Not to mention the kids had already broken every health-code violation by dipping their fingers into the container to taste their product. 

So when a stern-looking older gentleman stopped abruptly and got out of his car, I swore it was the neighborhood association shutting us down. 

But the man asked for a cup and instead of paying 50 cents, he put a dollar down on the table. “Keep the change. Good luck, kid!” My 6-year-old beamed with pride. “My first tip!”

Moms, dads, children and friends started to arrive, and business was booming. Joggers stopped exercising to grab a cup, and neighbors who had happened to walk by returned with money. As the boys made change, the customers watched patiently, eager to help them hone their math skills. Two neighborhood friends set up shop next to us selling cookies. We were a legit money-making machine. (That is until I busted the girls for selling our lemonade at a 50 percent mark up!)

Just as we were getting hot, tired and ready to count our money, the neighborhood fire department unit pulled up—they had seen our post on Facebook. The three firefighters in uniform walked over to the kids. 

“Tell them it’s no charge,” my husband and I whispered to the kids. But they were already running over to their heroes offering cups of lemonade and a fistful of cookies. In exchange, the firefighters gave our boys and their lingering young customers a tour of the fire truck and each a turn in the driver’s seat. Thanks to them, no other lemonade stand in the future of any child ever will be as awesome as ours. 

The boys made $38 that day, and I gained a renewed sense of community. We live in a crazy world, but it was crazy back when we were kids, too. Our parents just weren’t getting 24/7 push notifications about everything horrible in the world, from type 2 diabetes to Amber Alerts. 

But with all the changes and complexities, the heart of our community is the same. It still takes a village. Everyone we met that hot summer day stopped what they were doing to buy a cup of lemonade and teach my kids a thing or two about the value of money. From generation to generation, neighbors, friends and strangers still come together to support a child’s first business endeavor. And perhaps they like how the taste of lemonade takes them back to that sweet spot in their childhoods too, when life was simple and carefree. 

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