Saturday, July 26, 2008

Childhood Memory Attack #1

No--this isn't a therapeutic memory recall of any sort. My childhood was pretty darned good, as I remember. Except for the day my dad threw a baseball at me (no, we were playing catch) and I caught it square in the chest. Or the day I fell off the rope swing in the Simkins' back yard and I broke my arm. Or the day the front bicycle wheel came off of the fork and I landed on the crossbar--enjoying that special pain that only boys can truly understand. But as usual, I digress... I'm thinking that Childhood Memory Attacks can be a bit of a series here, if they start flooding my mind.

When I was growing up, there were plenty of opportunities for me to go to camp, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc. The one common factor that all of these opportunities offered was the chance to go door-to-door, unchaperoned, and try to get the unsuspecting resident to purchase whatever it was we were selling (Halloween was sort of the same way, in reverse). It didn't matter what part of town, or what time of day, or what day of the week. All money raised was to be applied towards the registration fees of whatever organization we were selling for.

I don't know if it's because he never had the opportunity himself, or if he was just ornery, but Dad was adamant that "no child of mine was going to beg for money from strangers..." Needless to say, that sort of made me an outcast, and raised embarrassing issues in front of my friends. This actually lasted through high school, where I learned to appreciate his attitude much better. While the rest of the band was selling magazine subscriptions, I was turning in a check for what was the "minimum" amount that we were each supposed to raise. My parents would rather just write the check, than to have me go door to door. Oh, sure, I missed out on the wonderful prizes, and the chance to see my name at the top of the sales chart, but frankly, by that time, I had girls to chase. And that was much more important, even to a band/choir/drama geek like me!

Even though I didn't get to sell anything in my youth, I'm a sucker for buying it now! But with conditions. I generally won't buy non-perishable items. Magazine subscriptions will never see a penny from me. That's just a junk mail machine. I generally won't buy anything where you have to pre-order. I want my product NOW! I generally won't buy anything from parents. The kid has to make the sales pitch to me. I'm much more apt to buy something from a kid when they least expect it.

I've been known to drive around the block to pull up to some middle school band students carrying a box of the World's Finest Chocolate. After they get past the creepy factor, see that I'm waiving a fiver, and I see that they've put their cell phones back in their pocket, then we're in business! I used to do the same with grade school kids who were selling these wonderful toffee-coated peanuts for YMCA summer camp. I can still hear the 'whoosh' of the foil as you opened the vacuum-packed can for the first time. Haven't seen those in a long time... And if I hear of a dope peddler in the alley selling Thin Mints, I'm clearing out a bank account. That's one thing that you don't have to be a kid to sell to me!

So what brought on this first Attack? Lemonade stands. One thing that Dad did allow us to do. Sit out in the hot sun, on a busy street corner, with a sticky warm pitcher of sugary goodness, selling it in 4 oz. increments for 10¢ each. Of course, we never made money, drank most of it ourselves, and got bored with it after 30 minutes. Things haven't changed much today. The "lemonade" is more likely to be Kool-Aid, and mixed in a very watery proportion. The 4 oz. cups are still around, but cost a quarter now. And kids still set up shop on busy street corners. Unfortunately, busy street corners are the last place that a successful lemonade/Kool-Aid stand works. Traffic won't stop. And around here, we don't have the pedestrian traffic. So I've become one of those that will stop when I see one. Whether I'm thirsty or not. That's not really why you're there. And I will fumble through my pockets for a quarter, and end up giving them a dollar bill (because I need the quarters for my laundry!). I've even been known to drop a twenty in the jar. Not often, but it's been done. The cup is too small, the pitcher too big, the drink too sweet (or not sweet enough), the counter is sticky from where they've been spilling it while pouring, and there's always somebody's baby brother nearby crying, and some kid with a stained shirt from where he spilled while pouring, and the kid with the sticky hand from when he stuck it in the pitcher to get the bugs that fell in. These are the kids I'll go out of my way for, because when you leave, there's always a smile on their faces. And how can that be bad for your day?

For those of you not used to this sappy side of me, don't worry. It's temporary. I just need to find my dope peddler. I hear he's working down by the Dairy Queen these days...

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