Watching my Grandmother smile and haggle with customers just absolutely enthralled me. And I had an idea! There was an old tree house, it had either never been finished or long since dilapidated because the only thing really left was a partial ladder. It was just beyond my Aunt's backyard in an unoccupied field. I whispered my brilliant plan to my cousin Donny who was 6 months older than I was. All we had to do was collect mistletoe which people love and tie them with red ribbons, then sell them for 5 cents a bunch! I had the supply (mistletoe), the demand (kissy adults) and product packaging (red ribbon, well, I didn't actually have that yet, but I was no older than 7, so there were holes in my business plan).
My cousin usually liked my ideas so we raced out beyond the backyard to the overgrown field and waded through the waist high grass. It was at least March if not later, in Texas and it was hot. Not the best season for selling mistletoe to people, but I would later learn to gauge my clientele's needs a little better.
My cousin was not interested in climbing the tree but I'm not sure I asked anyway. I was no stranger to precarious situations, my knees and legs told the stories with their bumps and scratches. I raised my foot high over my shoulder to the first rickety wood stick nailed to the gnarled tree, and lifted myself off the ground. Whoever had built that treehouse had been tall and I was not. And it must have been many years previous because the nails were barely secure and highly rusty. But it was still secure enough to climb, so I thought.
UP I went! Until I ran out of rungs and still wasn't close enough for my precious supply of goods. I stood on my tippy toes on the top rung and could barely reach it. I grasped a couple bunches with my fingertips, yanked and tossed them down to my cousin below. But two wasn't enough. That's just 10 cents. We need ALL of the mistletoe to make a profit. So I put one leg up on a nearby limb, the tree had smooth bark, nothing with any amount of traction and the limb was not thick or strong. I knew it wouldn't hold me well but all I could see was mistletoe and it meant MONEY.
Standing now like a flamingo, one leg on my precarious branch, the other leg sticking out into the air to balance me, I stretched as much as I could, trying to gain a little more length than my short for my age self could even manage. I heard the muffled sounds of my cousin below slightly protesting but my ears were either rushing with blood or I was subconsciously muting him... sooo close... my fingers brushed the unripe golden green bellies of the mistletoe and, *CRACK!* The branch holding my cute little sneakered foot snapped from underneath me.
Down I went, like a WHOOSH, both my arms and legs sticking straight up towards the sky as my booty went straight down towards a giant Texas cactus bush. I can still sort of remember, like slow motion, the green leaves passing my face, the big blue Texas sky above and the extreme pain I felt when I found the end to my pull with gravity.
I spent the next hour or so in my Aunt's kitchen, bent over a dining room chair. I had learned what a failed business might feel like in the most tangible of ways. A hundred cactus tines in my tushy as my Aunt, Grandmother and older cousin used tweezers to pluck each offensive cactus splinter out. Alternating between hiding their snickers of laughter and showering me with comfort as I wailed with big crocodile tears.
My terry cloth blue shorts were destroyed by my butt-to-cactus interlude. And my booty was numb for what felt like days, a side effect of unintentionally playing with cacti.
I've learned through the years to know my clients, know my product and not try to sell something I can't complete (no ribbon). But mostly, I learned my limits. I am far more grounded nowadays in what I can feasibly accomplish. Pipe dreams were something I learned to recognize growing up (that's another blog post). Reality, sensibility, capability. These are things you need to achieve those goals. It's not enough to say to reach for the stars, if you can't keep your foothold.