Monday, July 20, 2015

Life hands you a lemon?

Once upon a time, my sister Kathleen and I were going to have a lemonade stand.

Not that there was much call for one in our neighborhood. When kids had any extra money, it got spent at the soda fountain at Sol’s Pharmacy, at Carrerra’s for penny candy, or on the ice cream truck. If you wanted something to drink during the summer, you drank out of a hose.

But we’d seen kids with lemonade stands on TV, and we thought it looked like fun. A lemonade stand was one of those things – like pogo sticks and scooters, and kids who said “Sir” and “Ma’am” – that was presented to you on the small screen as the Norman Rockwell norm. Let’s face it, when you’re an urban parochial school ethnic, what you really want to be is a suburban public school Protestant. It just seemed so much more, well, American.

Anyway, Kath and I were
hoping that our friends, our brothers’ friends, and maybe even some of the older kids on the street would buy lemonade, and we’d make some moolah. It wouldn’t have occurred to us in a million years that a grownup would stop by. There weren’t a lot of grownups walking around our neighborhood during the day, other than a few weirdoes – like Elmer the Boogeyman, and Wally J – who we wouldn’t have wanted to sell to, anyway.

My mother was fine with the idea – as long as we were willing to pay her for the sugar and lemons we used.


Did June Cleaver charge the Beav? Did Donna Stone charge Mary and Jeff? Did Father Knows Best charge Princess, Kitten, and Bud?

Having not yet heard of the Protestant Ethic, we just chalked this up to yet another way in which Catholics were different.

And having not yet studied economics or gone to business school, we couldn’t fathom why my mother would want to charge her very own flesh and blood for stuff that she had sitting around her kitchen for free.What was she, anyway? Some kind of a Communist?

We tried to reason with Lizzie, but the lemonade stand became a no go, even when we did a bit of weaseling and told her that we’d give some of the money we made to the Jimmy Fund.

Who would have thunk that my mother could have been such a shrewd thinking captain of industry?

Not us, for sure.

After all, even if she were, financially speaking, in the right, this wasn’t the only time she’d tried to squelch our nascent commercial instincts.

My mother wouldn’t even let us go door to door selling wholesome Catholic magazines (fundraising for the school) or Holy Childhood seals, either. And those Holy Holy Childhood stampsChildhood proceeds were for a good cause, like baptizing pagan babies. Certainly, those seals would have sold themselves.

The reasoning behind her fatwah on our becoming peddlers was that everyone on the street either had kids in Catholic school who were also selling wholesome Catholic magazines or Holy Childhood stamps, or they were alcoholics who would slam the door in our face, or they were Protestants. And, no, we weren’t to bother our relatives, either.

Oddly, my mother was just fine with us going door-to-door to collect for the Heart Fund. She always signed on to be the annual fund collector for our street, so there Kath and I were, knocking on doors in the middle of winter – February is Heart Month – begging for donations.

The remembrance of my non-lemonade stand past was prompted by an article I saw in a recent Economist.

It recounted a June incident in Texas in which the cops shut down a lemonade stand run by two little girls who were trying to raise the money to buy their dad a Father’s Day gift.

Not only were they hawking without a $150 “peddler’s permit”, but also the state requires a formal kitchen inspection and a permit to sell anything that might spoil if stored at the wrong temperature. As authorities are meant “to act to prevent an immediate and serious threat to human life or health”, the officers understandably moved swiftly in. (Source: The Economist)

Well, by the standards of all the negative police stories in the news of late, this one’s pretty harmless. Still, it seems like a bit of law enforcement overreach. Were they responding to a call from a nasty neighbor of the ‘get out of my yard’ variety? Had the lemonade made someone sick? Certainly, there must be an occasional true crime in Overton, Texas, that these fellows could have been following up on.

Not to be deterred, Zoey and Andria Green:

…discovered that if they gave the lemonade away free, but put a box on the table for tips, they could still make money because the “payments” thus became donations.

Wonder if their mother charged them for the ingredients…


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