We dont particularly like taking orders from decorative paper towels that instruct us to tiptoe through the tulips or count our blessings. We prefer the plain white ones to Windex our bathroom mirror or wipe barbecue sauce from our fingertips. With apologies to Mary Englebreit, theres something inherently contradictory about pieces of forced Americana printed on everything from checks to napkins: It always comes off as disingenuous.
Yet those Country Time Lemonade commercials give us pause. "Summer is a short 92 days this year," that old melodic voice echoes in our head, simultaneously calming and panic-inducing: How many days? When does The Voice start counting? Memorial Day? Shit. What's today? It's the same nagging feeling as when you can't remember forsaken resolutions so you do a quick 30 sit-ups on New Year's Eve day in hopes of making up for months of neglect.
But we love Country Time's dreamlike ads, because they blur the line between things we did as a kid and things we're pretty sure we didn't do. Chasing electric-blue lizards before they scuttle under a rock and feeding Cheetos to catfish at the lake house? Yeah, we're pretty sure we did that. But did we ever ride our bikes through a flower-strewn lea or whitewash a fence? Drink a refreshing glass of lemonade with our great-grandmother? After watching these commercials, so simple and idyllic, we can't remember. Until we realize (with some measure of disappointment) that we never had a great-anything who was alive when we born.
We do know that a johnboat isn't currently strapped to the top of our Oldsmobile and our Missouri fishing permit is long expired. So we drive to the Boathouse in Forest Park, the next best place we can think of. Like the artificial, as-if-viewed-through-a-dryer-sheet memories Country Time conjures, it's a place we've never been, but when friends say they've been there on a date, we always gush about how pretty and romantic it is, as though we'd been dozens of times ourselves.
The Boathouse's pink, icy, sugar-rimmed Lakeside Lemonade tastes better than most lemonade, period. Having heard its description of vodka, sour mix, cranberry juice and Sprite, we doubted we'd be able to detect the flavor of lemons, but we needn't have worried. Like a child unsatisfied with the answer the first time around, we ask our waiter Darrell once, twice: "Are you sure there's alcohol in this?" And "So you're saying there's no lemonade in here at all?"
We watch the sun set below the trees as birds pick at dropped food beneath the tables and fuzzy baby ducks swim closer to their parents in the lake.
Then life goes all sepia: In dreams, we're late for dinner and hop on our bike. We pedal through a dirt field, then race downhill, past picket fences. Our newly traded baseball cards snap click-click-click ever faster within the spokes. Finally we unlatch the gate to our great-grandmother's lush yard. Inside dinner waits: barbecued pork steaks and corn on the cob.
And we're home.