From our second floor bedroom, I heard Nick outside hawking drinks to the throngs of people he imagined needed refreshments during a 56 degree “heat spell”. He had dragged the kids’ craft table onto the front porch where he now sat, eagerly scanning the sidewalk for potential customers.
Never mind that it was drizzling…
Or that no one really walks down our street in the middle of the afternoon…
Or that people don’t really want to open a gate, walk past a barking dog and up a set of stairs to get a drink.
“Whatcha doing, bud,” I had asked earlier when he was climbing onto the counter to get the plastic, smiley face cups
“I’m going to sell drinks for free.”
“Okay…” I responded, slightly irritated. Nick was my BIG IDEAS boy, and he could latch onto the most ill-conceived ones with the conviction of the newly converted.
“You know, we have some nice paper cups…”
“I don’t need them,” he snapped.
“Alright…” I said, biting the inside of my cheek so I didn’t snap back. We had just returned from a very long day at the zoo. His little brother was passed out on the couch, and Nick, while too old for a nap, clearly needed some downtime.
“Do you want me to help you make some lemonade?”
“I already know how to do it,” he muttered, grabbing the bottle of lemon juice concentrate from the fridge.
“You probably need some sug– “
I didn’t get to finish my sentence.
“STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO! I’M 8 NOW!”
Yes, by a whopping 24 hours, genius, I thought, then mentally flogged the sarcastic wench who occasionally – ok, regularly – took up residence whenever I was tired. We had overstayed our welcome at the zoo by an hour, and the “one more animal” that we just had to see had been the one more thing to send all of us over the edge. Our long walk back to the car – weary mom with two crying kids – garnered sympathetic nods from grandparents and one furtive prayer from a fellow mom. (“There but for the grace of God…)
I needed to redirect myself and without a word (aloud) I harrumphed my way upstairs. After all, I had better things to do – like fold laundry. So there!
Now, 30 minutes later, Nick was still outside, inviting skeptical passersby to have “a nice tall glass of something nice to drink.” Contrary to the snotty – and yes, overtired – boy who had given me such brusque answers, this was the per-pubecent soprano of an angel, so sweet, so vulnerable.
I went downstairs, then opened the front screen slightly, not wanting to, you know, scare off any potential customers.
“How’s it going, bud?”
He hung his head, shaking it slightly. “Not so good. No one is thirsty today.”
“Well,” I tut-tutted, ready to run through the list of things he had done wrong this afternoon, and how, if he had just listened to me, there would be throngs of people lined up.
But then I didn’t.
I could be right, or I could be supportive.
But I couldn’t be both.
“You know, I had a lot of laundry to put away so I am really thirsty right now. Do you have time to make me a special drink?”
He gasped as lifted his head. “Sure,” he said excitedly, eagerly mixing soda water, lemon juice, and a splash of Gatorade. Not my concoction of choice, but one I gulped back with gusto.
“Excellent, sir! Might I have another?”
A groggy voice piped up behind me. “Nick, can I have one too?”
“You bet, Gabe!” Then Nick the mixologist whipped up two more of his signature cocktail.
He poured himself a third and the three of us cheered with our cups.
“Here’s to family!”
“Hey, Nick,” I exclaimed, widening my eyes as if our toast had just inspired a simply brilliant idea.
“What if when it gets warmer we all help out selling drinks? You could man the table. I could do the mixes. Maybe Gabe and Olivia could invite people over. Mommy could be in charge of refills. We’d be like a team.”
We high-fived one another, then Nick shivered as the wind picked up, the rain blowing sideways onto our burgeoning business.
“I think it’s time to go inside,” Nick suggested. He gathered the cups while Gabe picked up the now-empty bottles. As I carried the table inside, Nick hugged my enthusiastically, his face beaming.
“I can’t wait till summer, Nana.”
“Because then I’ll be able to sell A LOT of drinks for free!*”
(*Right. So the concept of getting money in exchange for services is something we’re still working on. Hopefully, we’ll have it mastered before the warm weather comes!)