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“Hey! Look over there! That car’s stopping!” exclaimed Sloane, already tanned in her flowered sundress and clapping her hands in the air. Excitement fused through the gyrating torsos of kids, just released for the summer from the nearby Mark Twain Elementary School. Beneath the shade of a maple tree stood a cloth-covered table lined with pitchers of lemonade and red plastic cups; coolers of ice chips flanked its corners. Mason grinned as he tended the cash box.

And so the exuberant afternoon went, with moms and dads watching. Kids from other blocks hung around the lemonade stand where they laughed, turned cartwheels, and spoke of summer plans—No matter the heat. They had their lemonade with its tart sweetness.

Such places of refreshment still soften hearts—An opportunity to enter the world of the child we once were. And it’s this same child, today, who still gets overwhelmed by the unexpected, however small or great, and seeks help at the closest “lemonade stand.” That could be a trusted friend, a solitary walk in the woods or by the ocean, a pet dog’s nuzzling her owner.

Or even more powerful: sitting still in prayer and waiting for the emergence of God’s presence. The release of tears gives urgency to the plea for comfort, for the inevitable new learning, for its assimilation within the ridges of the hurting heart. In time, its bitterness, like the lemon, is sweetened by wisdom’s smile.

 

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“I’ve also been cleaning houses for twenty-five years. Getting them ready for realtors. Even sprucing them up for estate sales,” says a tall hefty woman, her short brunette hair pulled back into a ponytail. “And I also paint,” she adds, while shifting her weight onto her other foot and holding a bucket filled with bottles of vinegar and distilled water, sponges, squeegees, and clean cloths.

Because eleven years of grime had besmirched the windows of my bungalow, I decided to have them washed. And on the morning of dribbling rain, likened to the incontinence of an embarrassed dowager, my new friend showed up, her quiet smile assuring me of her expertise. Immediately, she set to work on the living room windows while I returned to my word processor.

Time passed. On my way to the kitchen I noted the sparkle of the “forest pansy” redbud tree through my bedroom window. And so, for the rest of the morning, my windows began to look out upon the crystalline wet world I had only experienced during walks. Within my bungalow I could now enjoy the true colors of the outdoors.

I had been helped.

Its deeper lesson soon emerged: the surrender to Creator God who alone has power to wash clean my stuff (the grime) in order to relish the true colors of my Senior years seasoned with daily challenges. Such appreciation emboldens spirit and readies it for its transition.

 

It was Saturday afternoon, in the darkened movie theater of the Shady Oak. Around me other kids fidgeted and munched popcorn. Tentatively, I felt my nose. Unlike Pinocchio’s, it had not grown, despite lies I had told that morning. I squirmed in my seat; my face flushed knowing that scorched place from which this marionette’s tall tales flowed, one after another.

It was 1940. Walt Disney Studios had released an animated film based upon the epic fairy tale-novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi in 1883 and set in Tuscan, Italy. An immediate sensation, it was translated into multiple languages—the English version by Mary Alice Murray, in 1892. Unlike Disney’s Pinocchio, however, Collodi’s takes the reader into his struggle to become the living son of the impoverished Geppetto who had carved him from a singing block of wood.

Wayward and petulant, the next morning Pinocchio kills the Talking Cricket crawling on the wall of the cottage and runs away, barreling out of control. A succession of misadventures befalls him: at the Great Marionette Theater; with a host of animals, both tricksters and helpful; at the Land of the Toys where he’s transformed into a donkey; and at the circus. All through these scrapes the spirit of the same Talking Cricket accompanies him and equates his lies to the enlargement of his nose. Even more trauma befalls Pinocchio until his wooden heart becomes one of flesh, and he wakes up as a boy, the son of Geppetto and his wife.

Both Collodi’s and Disney’s versions of this fairy tale offer a simple morality tale for children of any age. It’s about becoming fully human with its joys and foibles.

 

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