Through a kaleidoscopic lens of time past, I can see their aura of expectancy and certainty: they had big dreams, those two, and they were going to strike gold on the corner of Milledge and Woodlawn.
Reason never wins an argument with youthful enthusiasm.
Mine was a "between-the-hedges" college town, and everyone South of the Mason-Dixon knows what I mean. From Summer's heat til Thanksgiving's feast, the air was a swirl of sweat and grass and marching band, scent and sound married for the day…another football Saturday afternoon. It was almost Mayberry, "give" Sheriff Taylor but "take" Coach Dooley.
That didn't matter much to Kimberly and me. We were ready for business. Setting up shop between the Lambda Chi house and the Honeycutt's yard, what a sight we must have been! Two ragamuffin girls dragging their wares–a folding card table, nylon mesh-woven chairs, a battery-operated cassette recorder (I'm sure with Bobby Sherman or Donny Osmond or the Carpenters), an Igloo full of ice cracked from metal trays…and cherry Kool-aid and slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookies. We were gonna get rich–QUICK!–one dime at a time.
I think we had three customers that day–thrilled with each one–but not beginning to recover our "investment". Adding insult to injury, I got one heck of a tongue thrashing when my father got home from work and discovered what we had been up to. This might've been the first time I thought "You just don't understand!"; my dad enumerated all the "what-ifs" to me (what if someone had stolen our tape recorder, if someone had kidnapped us (insert kid-proportioned eye rolls)…), but I remember thinking how we'd do it better next time.
My entire adult life, if I pass a child's lemonade stand and there's money in my pocket, I will always stop and buy a drink…it's not a choice, it's compulsion. I may or may not politely sip the contents, but I relish this drink of nostalgia and hope and job satisfaction and thrill of the sale. You can see it in their eyes; if you look closely, you can even see it in mine.
I don't know about you, but we've felt the effects of the economy. It makes me especially thankful my husband's job is intact (today…), that we have a roof over our head and that we have more than enough to eat. In light of this "market correction" and facing increased expenses associated with raising teens (and heck, just in general!), I've updated my resume and applied for a few jobs.
When you've been officially out of the job market for 15 years, it can be daunting to return. In spite of ~
- continuing to consult in my field (marketing and PR) after the birth of my daughter;
- juggling part-time jobs that allowed me to remain an at-home mom;
- using my professional skills in volunteerism and church service;
- free-lance writing projects
Recently I have discovered "dream jobs" on two separate occasions, and though I didn't receive an offer, it has been amusing to me that my confidence remains: I actually have the moxie and sass to think it's "their loss".
While awaiting that dream job, an opportunity presented itself to me a few weeks ago that has proven to be both humbling and blessing: making and serving and selling iced tea at my kids' school. It's not in our school's interest to hire an employee for this task; but they've been willing to let parents take over the role. To me, this is a kindness extended by the school: any money earned goes straight back to funding the kids' lab fees or class trips or dues or whatever…the stuff that nickles and dimes you to death! I'm grateful.
On Tuesdays and Thursday and sometimes more often, I become The Tea Lady; seriously, that's what they call me. I loop around my neck a five-pocket hunter green apron bought for cleaning purposes years ago–might I add, never actually used for that–and slip quarters in one pocket and dollar bills in another. It's my version of a money box. I get up early that day and make four gallons of tea, one raspberry, all of them sweet.
True to my marketing core, I take my job seriously–
- using "good" tea
- pouring generously, not over-filling with ice
- never skimping on sugar
- smiling, making eye contact and sincerely thanking each customer
- making sure those repeat customers know I notice!
- spending a little extra on fun-colored cups (that actually makes a difference and the kids DO notice and appreciate)
I watch the students; first middle school, later high school. I see cliques and loners, and some of these kids I just want to rescue! I know the ones who might not be popular now but who will "make it" in the end. The ones who dare to be different, the ones who move freely among the packs. It's doubtful they realize how closely I'm watching, how much I hear.
I get to see my children during the day.
There's even a student who has started talking to me, really talking, glad to see me, sharing her heart and inviting me into her private world.
And then it occurred to me–I was right….
Over a drink of warmth and interest and hospitality and humility, I've struck gold on the corner of "Milledge" and "Woodlawn".