Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why the Lemonade Stand Stood


I was in Texas to visit family as well as run a half-marathon. As I pulled into my grandmother’s driveway I happened to notice a patch of grass in a way I had never noticed it before.You could pull into the circular driveway a thousand times and never notice it. There's no reason to, really. It's meaningless to nearly everyone who passes it, as well it should be. It's a patch of grass as nondescript as any patch you've ever seen. And yet this time when I looked at it, it drew me in and took me back to a time where every memory was worth making and every dream worth having.

We were part of a select club who didn't call her Mrs. Coggin or Carolyn or the pastor's wife or even mom. We were the lucky few who called her Gran. To us, there was no equal. She was, in our eyes, perfect. And though we couldn't have articulated it at the time, we knew God had given her the spirit of a thousand angels and the light of a million suns, and no one in heaven or on earth could ever compare.

And that patch of grass at the edge of the driveway silently tells the story why.

Lemonade stands are not an uncommon part of childhood. Children the world over hang their figurative shingle in front yards and peddle their goodies in the hopes of earning a few bucks to spend as they please.

And if the lemonade stand were the end of the story, or even the beginning of the story, it wouldn't be much of a story at all. But it's not. The lemonade stand stood for something far more than just the table and chairs, the posters and quarter priced drink. It stood for us.

Everyone should be so lucky as to experience the welcome that each grandchild felt upon entering my grandparent's house. No matter what chaos our lives might have been on the outside, when we walked through their door, every problem slipped away and every anxiety vanished. For a child to feel that incredible amount of love only by walking through the door is rare. And to feel that love every single time we did, rarer still.

Spending the night at Gran and Granddaddy's was a paradox of fantastic predictability. We knew what to expect every time. And yet it never once grew boring or redundant or stale. It was our old familiar full of new possibilities.

We knew that we would feast like princes and princesses. We knew every morning upon waking to look under our pillow for a surprise. We knew that every night, before sleeping, Gran would present each of us with a handwritten menu for us to check off what we wanted for breakfast. We knew that every single thing we checked off would be waiting for us the next morning. We knew that we could check off every single thing.

We knew that we'd be given one of my grandfather's oversized shirts to sleep in. We knew that we'd be read a bedtime story. We knew that she'd stay in the room with us until we fell asleep. We knew that we'd try and pretend to be asleep until she left the room. We knew we rarely succeeded in doing so.

We knew that if we asked and she could do it, it would get done. We knew when we had done something wrong simply by the look in her eyes. We knew that we wanted nothing more than to please her. We knew that there was no greater joy than making her proud.

It wasn't the lemonade stand on that patch of grass. It was the thousands of lemonade stands that were built on the bedtime stories told, the menus for meals, the oversized shirts. It was the trips taken to ride the train at the zoo, or the tram at the airport, or the log ride at Six Flags. It was the hidden Easter eggs and the kites flown and the sausage and cherries drowning in sweet sauce at Christmas. It was the pineapple sandwiches and ambrosia.

She's 91 years old and still building us lemonade stands. Yesterday, as I left my grandmother's home for the airport, she handed us a sack lunch that she and my mom had prepared. It had a sandwich, cookies, a banana, and some trail mix. "You don't need to pay for snacks on the plane" she said.

Perfect strangers still clamor to meet her when she's out in public, hugging her neck, moved to tears simply to have met her. She's still the humble servant, the meek minister, the matriarch, the queen, gran, and yes, still the lemonade stand builder.

It's been a while since the last lemonade stand. But from this day forward, each time I see that patch of grass, and my mind's eye recalls that distant yesteryear, I’ll be reminded how my Gran built us a thousand lemonade stands each day by the things she did for us, and continues to this day to do for us.
              And the lemonade stand always - always- stood for us.