Memory is a tricky thing, and recalling one’s own history, scraped together from the fragments of that memory is even trickier. One of the purposes of this blog has always been to collect and record my own personal history and opinions as they occur. But in this (new) series, I’m going to try to piece together some of my long-lost pre-blog memories, moments, history, ideas, and life-episodes into something of a coherent “8ack5tory“… Enjoy!
…from the late 1980s
As I arrived home from work the other day — or was that a few weeks ago now? — I noted that the neighbor kids were selling lemonade. It couldn’t help but stir up some fond memories of my sibs and I doing the same sort of thing back in the mid-to-late-1980s, parked out on the sidewalk in front of our small-town house with a folding table and a couple lawnchairs hawking some ready-mix iced beverage to passing commuters in the heat of the mid-afternoon summer sun. And it got me thinking…
See, I grew up in a small town. Though I’ve only been back to said town on a handful of occasions since we moved away, I have a fairly strong sense of the place stuck in my head. For that reason, part of me suggests that I’d call those years formative, but really… actually… I think those years all took place before the real formative times began. I was still just a kid when we lived in the Northern Alberta town of Barrhead — a tiny spot on a map north of another spot on the map, surrounded by countless trees, vast wildernesses and farmland — and I was still young enough to be selling lemonade on the street in front of our house and not be questioned for doing just such a thing. Those were the particular years that filled the time between the whisping memories before my school days began, hazed and foggy collections of emotions and faces prior to really, truly recalling my life, and the more solidly manifested years of junior high school and beyond, from where I still remember names and events and hurtful words that were exchanged between immature kids. They were the elementary years, the time between five years old and not quite a teenager. The years of carefree summers. The months of meandering through the playground with friends. The weeks of idle skateboarding around quiet streets. The days of selling lemonade to passing cars.
The funny thing about memory is that it is a bit clingy around the edges, sticky-sweet when it comes to the oddly-recalled stuff, and punctuated in pale, whisping bursts. The neighbor kids, (who were very soon joined by Claire when she arrived home, too) were out there pushing their wares for about an hour. It seemed so patient of them. It seemed so diligent. In my mind, our own efforts have no real temporal value; they just are snapshots of having done these things, having sat on the side of the road a quarter of a century ealier with an identical intent. And I suppose we had our hours of vending fun, too, all of it a lot more innocent and much lighter than I make out now with the perspective of later years resting upon it. History and memory are like that, though, caught up like the bits of snow on the inside of a ever-growing snowball rolling across some fresh fall gathering more, and more, and more, and more until it is big enough to build something out of properly. It’s tough to grab some of that snow from the inside, pull it out to examine it, and not have all the rest come along with the mess.
The other thing is that I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of “history” lately. And what I’ve noted is that most (if not all) of history-making-and-marking seems to have a point: from the historical narrative of the telling emerges a story of something worth remembering, moments in the past cobbled together that relate the tale of then to now. It seems then that any such tale I write here should have something similar included: a story thread that takes you, the reader, from then until now.
My thread here is simply… lemonade.
I think I really hated selling lemonade. Or, at least, disliked it. I think, or so I would have myself remember it, that I’ve never been a salesman. I’ve never had the proper drive to separate a passer-by from their money. I’ve never been a true capitalist. Even there, sitting on the street as an irresistable kid on a hot summer day selling cold drinks to small town folks who couldn’t help but slow, then stop, and shell out a few meager coins for a dixie cup of refreshment… even there I had my own reluctance understood. Lemonade sales was not my cup of tea. I’ve known people who are salesmen. I currently run with a guy who is not only a salesman but revels in that fact, has philosophies and introspective ideas on that fact, and has shared with many of us a variety of — let’s call them — relationship management techniques, say for remembering names, while we’ve been out for our multi-hour runs where the conversation can go (and has gone) almost anywhere. So, when I look at a guy like Clint, I know that I am definitely not a salesman and definitely could do what he does, selling widgets and wobbles and other things, not even with a cup of lemonade.
Of course, I would go on to sell a surprisingly many things as I got older. Participating in clubs, bands, groups, and everything else that comes along with being a kid in a society with inadequate public funding for programming means one thing: you are forced to be a salesman for inexpensive door-to-door products like honey, popcorn, raffle tickets, chocolate almonds, chocolate bars, chocolate treats, and probably a list of other snacks and assorted bits I dare not even recall. So, selling lemonade for no reason other than to gather a few meager dimes from the neighbors… well, even early on it didn’t suit my personality. It never did, I think. I never has and probably never will. It is just not me.
Of course, there is always the chance I am remembering it completely wrong. There is always the chance that were I to glance back in time and quietly, unobtrusively, un-interferingly observe myself and my sibs, sitting out on the sidewalk during those dog days of summer with our pitcher of lemonade, folding table, cardboard sign, and go-get-em attitudes… well, perhaps the story would be different than I recall now over twenty-five years later. In fact, I could asusme for a moment that it is different: Let’s assume I was a salesman at heart, and that pawning off lemonade by the glass was an adventure and a challenge for my single-digit-aged self. What would that mean? What would that imply? That something about selling later in my life crushed that salesman inside me? That somewhere along the line I gave up that extroverted pitchman attitude and retreated into the realm of quiet, not-so-interested-in-selling-anything dude. It’s just a thought experiment, of course, but it would be interesting to figure out exactly where between those days as a lemonade vendor and now I lost interest.
But then growing up in a small town, I suppose, it was just the sort of thing one did. Another of the countless games we played, this one earning us some operating capital along the way: Kids sat out on the side of the road and sold lemonade. It was one of those things you almost needed to do to get a bit of cash so that you could wander, parent-less, up to the Red Rooster convenience store a couple blocks away and fill your pockets with a couple days worth of nickle candies. We would have our allowance, but it was the lemonade money, or the collecting pop cans from the local ditches and trash cans, or whatever little way that some small down pre-teens could cobble together a bit of spending coin. Necessity is the mother of both invention and desperation, it would seem — or at least when it came to sugar.
That probably also explains why I seem to recall drinking most of the lemonade ourselves.
So, ultimately it comes down to this: As I arrived home from work the other day I noted that the neighbor kids were selling lemonade, and I shortly thereafter sent my own daughter to join them — support them — with a couple bucks worth of change in her pocket. She didn’t come back for nearly half-an-hour, and whether she learned some kind of epic life-lesson, built a few soon-to-be vague and whisping memories of her own, or even planted the seeds for a lifetime of avoiding sales-type jobs like her old man… well, I don’t know and I don’t care. Just so long as she got a taste of both some family history and some of that sugary lemon-based beverage.