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Category: Relationships / Topics: Family Future Grandchildren Hopes & Dreams Learning Opportunity Relationships Work

Finding Their Way

by Barbara Greenleaf

Posted: March 27, 2021

Young people discovering their place in life. An excerpt from Barbara's teen novel, Good-to-Go Cafe…

Editor's Note: Barbara's March newsletter featured a piece we ran last week, "What if My Grandchild is Not College Material?" The second piece, which follows, is an excerpt from her teen novel "Good-to-Go Cafe," which relates in its focus on teenagers who are "trying to find themselves and their place in the world." Perhaps you will see your own grandchildren in some of her characters and find encouragement in mentoring them.

With college expenses very much on his mind, Enrique came up with the idea of catering and entertaining at children’s parties. He liked kids, they liked him—he made his little cousins laugh at family events—how hard could clowning be?

He created a flier to get out the word, and he stuck it up wherever he thought parents of young children might see it: Gymboree, Starbucks, the drive-through car wash, preschools, Sunday schools, and supermarkets. These efforts produced a few inquiries but no jobs, probably because he had never done a party before and no one wanted to be the first. Finally, a frazzled mom named Ellie Gratz hired him sight unseen because her son, Shawn, was having his third birthday the following week and she had done absolutely nothing about a party. Enrique assured her that he could take care of everything.

The next afternoon he rushed over to Ye Olde Costume Shoppe, where he picked up baggy pants, a red wig, and a little clown’s horn that made a honking sound when he squeezed the rubber bulb. Then he Googled “kids parties” and came up with what he thought was a smashing idea: hamburger buns decorated to look like faces. He sectioned licorice sticks to make eyebrows, sliced olives to make eyes, stripped pimentos for lips, and arranged carrot shavings for hair. Instead of one big birthday cake, he decided to make a bunch of cupcakes, each of which would get a candle and a little clown face. He assembled an old boom box, a CD with kids’ songs that he found at the library, and a long list of activities from the hokey pokey to musical chairs. He was armed and ready for combat!

On the day of the party, disguised as Ricky the Clown, he stood in Shawn’s driveway, honking his little horn for all he was worth as he welcomed the little guests. The costume was hot and itchy, but otherwise things were going smoothly. Enrique gave himself high fives for entering the clown biz. He could see himself as the Clown King in just a few years.

The trouble began when Shawn’s mother took the hamburgers out of the oven where they were warming.  Shawn took one look at the weird faces on the buns and began to scream. Another little boy got scared by the screaming and started to cry. Soon all the other kids were hysterical and making a beeline for their parents in the living room. Enrique honked his horn over and over and tried to organize a game of duck, duck, goose, but it was like herding cats.

Instead of having a good time with the other parents in the living room as Enrique had promised, Mrs. Gratz found herself consoling children and slapping together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches alone in the kitchen. The cupcakes Enrique had so lovingly prepared did turn out to be a big hit but not the way he planned. The three-year-olds preferred smashing them into one another’s faces to eating them, and no amount of rope tricks or pulling coins out of his ears could get them to stop.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Gratz said at the end of the long, long afternoon. “But next time I think I’ll just rent a bouncer.”

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Barbara is the author of eight books, including two of particular interest to seniors. She has given us permission to use material from her newsletter, "From the Desk of Barbara Greenleaf," to which you can subscribe on her website.

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Posted: March 27, 2021

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