Savoring summer, by the cupful

On a recent hot summer day here in Maine, I was tooling down the main road through town with my teenage son, when suddenly I applied the brakes and threw my arm across his chest to emphasize the drama of the moment.

"What?" he pleaded."What's going on, Dad?"

Without saying a word, I backed up and pointed to a driveway bordered by high privet hedges."Hey," I said, pushing my finger at the scene. "Look at that."

There, in the driveway, were two little girls, one with a red ribbon in her hair, sitting prim as daisies behind a card table.They couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old. On top of the card table sat a plump pitcher of - you got it - lemonade.No, make that, ICE! - COLD! - LEMONADE!And 1960s pricing, to boot:10 cents for a paper cupful.

"This is great," I murmured as I dug into my pocket for change.Handing two dimes to my son, I prodded him to get us a couple of cups. He slunk down in his seat and pulled away from me. "You gotta be kidding," he said."They're little kids. It's embarrassing."

Teenagers.I shook my head and rolled my eyes before alighting from the car and heading for the pint-size entrepreneurs.

The truth is, I always stop for kids selling lemonade by the roadside.For two reasons: One is that, in an age when computers have made shut-ins of many children, the kiddie lemonade stand is one of the last bastions of childhood street fun, unfettered by the admonishments and strictures of adult oversight.

Second, I am filled with pure nostalgia whenever I see one of these outposts. As a kid growing up in urban New Jersey, I ran a lemonade stand on our busy residential street for five summers.I set up the card table, lettered the sign, mixed the goods, and sat out there in the hot sun, hawking the ambrosia by chuggling the ice-filled pitcher at passersby and licking my lips.

Five cents got you half a Dixie cup; 10 brought the 'ade up to the brim.

What always amazed me was how supportive people were of my enterprise. On more than one occasion, an adult would throw a quarter or a half dollar or even a buck onto the table and wave me off when I proffered the lemonade.

"Nah, keep it, kid," they'd say as they smiled and walked off with a renewed lightness in their step, as if they'd just saved the world.

The thing is, people like kids who show some entrepreneurial moxie. But I pushed the limit one summer day - I must have been about 10 - when I got up early one morning and collected old newspapers from people's trash cans.These I stacked neatly next to my lemonade and began to bark, "Lemonade!Ice-cold lemonade!And yesterday's news!"

Unbelievably, a very distinguished-looking gentleman stopped, fished a half dollar out of his pocket, and flipped it in the air for me to snatch up in my quick little fist. "Which size, mister?" I queried, my hands dashing for the pitcher and cups.

"Nah," he said as he picked up a paper. "Just yesterday's news.And keep the change."

I watched breathlessly as he made off down the street, avidly paging through the paper as he went.

All of this is why I had to stop for those two girls.As my son hunched, mortified, in the car, I approached the altar of lemonade.The pixies sprang to the cause and began to sing of their product. "A dime a cup," said the beribboned one, who was echoed by her partner with a demure, "It's ice cold."

As I rummaged in my hand for the payment, I chatted up the munchkins with, "You know, this is pretty cheap.I used to sell this stuff for the same price when I was a kid more than 30 years ago."

The beribboned girl threw me a broad smile and drew my attention to a plastic beach pail next to the lemonade pitcher."That's why we have this!" she announced and pointed out, in large red letters, the word TIPS!

The pail was awash in coins and dollar bills.

"But only if you like the service," volunteered the other young miss.

I peeled a buck out of my wallet and dropped it into the pail. "The service is great, ladies," I said as I raised my cup to them.

And so, I might add, was the memory.

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