You know that moment in a movie when the main character says, “things can’t possibly get any worse!” …And then it starts raining? That’s what happened to this mom when she tried to do something nice for her kids. They had scrimped and saved to get enough money to buy a special treat, and they were all very excited. But life has a way to twisting even the happiest moments into something horrible if you let it. This story reminded me of my own childhood.
I have been a single mother for most of my adult life. There have been times when my children and I endured hunger and devastating poverty. With empty cupboards and barely a dollar to our name, we had to be creative.
On one particularly hot summer day, the kids were complaining that they were thirsty and they didn’t want water again. We were saving the last of our milk for the package of macaroni we had left in the cupboard. We had been drinking water and rationing what little milk we had left, but I wanted to give the kids a treat. It was only a day or two until our check would arrive, and I could buy more food. In the meantime, we had to make do.
Managing to scrape together ninety cents, all in pennies, the kids and I walked to the grocery store to purchase a few packs of unsweetened Kool-Aid. We smiled eagerly at the young cashier as he rung up our purchase.
“Eighty-seven cents, please,” he requested, bemused at the site of my family, so excited about three little packages of Kool-Aid.
“We’re having a party,” my five-year-old informed the cashier as I handed him exactly eighty-seven pennies. We headed home with our treat safely stored in my purse, my kids pulling on me to make me walk faster. Their excitement was contagious, and suddenly, I felt myself fantasizing about a tall glass of ice-cold Kool-Aid.
My son filled our favorite pitcher with tap water as I ripped open the Kool-Aid package. The kids gathered around me as I tipped the package over and let the contents spill into the water. The water turned blue and the kids squealed.
“Could you get the sugar down from the shelf?” I asked my son cheerfully. “I’m sure we have one more cup.”
“Um, mom, no sugar up here,” he replied.
“Are you sure?” I asked, trying to remember when I could have used the last of it.
“Yes, I’m sure. All we have is brown sugar,” he answered, disappointed.
Avoiding my son’s gaze, I turned away and swallowed my feelings of hopelessness.
Absorbing what my son had just said, a rather scary idea took root in my mind. “Give me the brown sugar, then.”
“What?” He asked, not quite following my train of thought.
“Please hand me the brown sugar.” I said, again.
Looking at me as though I had gone completely mad, he reached up in the cupboard and handed me the box of brown sugar.
“You aren’t going to use the brown sugar in the Kool-Aid, are you?” my son asked incredulously.
“Sure, why not? Brown sugar is sugar…it’s just brown,” I told him confidently, forcing myself to believe my own lie.
“I can’t believe you are gonna do this!” He exclaimed.
“All right, here it goes!”
I squished the brown sugar into the measuring cup and let it drop into the blue water. It splashed over the sides as the brown sugar sank to the bottom of the pitcher. Whistling a tune, I stirred the new concoction with vigor. We all watched in horror as the Kool-Aid went from a beautiful blue to a putrid bluish-brown.
The look in my son’s eyes belied his previous faith in my intelligence.
“I’m sure it’ll taste fine, it just looks a little…nasty.” I assured the children.
Smiling weakly, I brought the spoon up to my lips and tasted the ill-colored fluid. As my taste buds absorbed the illogical combination of unsweetened Kool-Aid powder and brown sugar, my face scrunched up involuntarily.
“Gross!” I said before I could stop myself.
My 7-year-old exclaimed, “Our Kool-Aid looks like poop!”
I started to correct my child on the inappropriate use of the word poop when a laugh erupted from my lips. Suddenly, the kitchen was filled with the sounds of joy and laughter. We laughed until the tears flowed unchecked down our faces.
The children proclaimed it to be a tasty drink, and we made two more pitchers with the brown sugar. Cherry (which turned green) and another bluish-brown combination. We even froze some of the bizarre drink to make Kool-Aid popsicles.
My kids have grown up to be successful individuals and given me everything I couldn’t provide during their childhood. Today, as I look back on that day, it reminds me that even in our lowest moments, we can always find joy.
When life gives you lemons, make Kool-Aid! Even in their most frustrating moments, these kids learned the most important lesson from their mom. Staying positive and keeping a good attitude is sometimes the best thing you can do. She may not have realized that her constant “can-do” attitude had rubbed off on her children until that very moment, and I think they learned a most valuable lesson!
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