This last week it was just Pete and Stella and me. Pete asked me every day, sometimes umpty-eleven times a day, if I'd help him make a lemonade stand. Later, I said. Wait until Joe gets back home. I can't stay with you at a lemonade stand because Stella takes too much chasing. There's not enough traffic at our house and around the corner there's too much traffic for you to be alone. Later.
Thirty minutes later: "Mama, when can I make a lemonade stand?"
I emailed my pal Jenny who lives around the corner and asked if her kids, lemonade stand veterans, could help us out. Sure, she said. How about Friday?
On Friday they lugged their stuff out to the corner and started setting up. The lady from the house at the corner came zooming out. You kids get off my lawn, she said. The last time you were here you left a big mess.
It wasn't us, the kids asserted. It was Michael, from down the block. We don't leave a mess.
They started packing up anyway, until their dad came out and asked them why. He said, "You're not on her lawn. The sidewalk is not her property. You kids can stay here with your lemonade stand."
Shortly afterward -- brace yourselves -- the cops showed up. They stepped out of the squad car and sauntered over to the lemonade stand. Pete (this part breaks my heart) started to cry: he thought the cops had come to arrest them all and take them away. Jenny's boy Jack, who is Pete's friend even though they are almost five years apart, tried to comfort him.
Mercifully, Jenny's husband was still there. The cops said, "We've had a complaint that these kids have been leaving styrofoam cups all over the place." Inadvertently, the neighbor had given the kids some ammunition. "Styrofoam!" they exclaimed. "We NEVER use styrofoam cups. We haven't used styrofoam cups in FOUR YEARS of lemonade stands."
They waved their recyclable plastic cups around. They offered the cops a free sample. The cops declined, pleasantly, and grumbled briefly about having been called out to deal with a perfectly legal lemonade stand run by polite responsible kids.
Pete stopped crying. Jenny's kids told him he could keep all the proceeds. He came home with the money clenched in his little fist, feeling proud and a little bit braver. We had a chat about the limits of police power, and the reality that 6-year-old boys don't generally have to worry about being arrested and taken away.
I am still thinking, DANG! Who calls the cops on a lemonade stand?