It all started when she got all frown-browed at me for shifting around the furniture in the house. I badly needed a space that isn’t overrun with toys, a small corner where my tea can sit in the teacup, steaming in serenity. So I moved away the chest that doubled up as her ‘kitchen counter’, and tucked her wooden kitchen set in an L-shape set up as suggested by the husband, leaving us a small area along the wall for our chairs and side table.
I called her space a cafe which got her to stop hopping in madness for a while, and the neighbour who happened to miraculously walk by bemused, “Wow, Raeann! You have a cafe!” So it stuck. She has a cafe!
That afternoon, I made her a welcome sign and we drew up a menu (she wants to sell beer and pomegranate smoothie and lemongrass ice cream!). That night, before she went to bed, she flipped over the ‘Welcome’ sign, and it said, ‘Bye Bye!’. “The cafe is closed! Come again tomorrow!” she joyfully cheered as she skipped into the bedroom.
The next morning, she woke up before me and flipped the sign to say ‘Welcome’. She named all the furniture in the house – “That is table one. That is table two. If there are more customers, they can sit on the chairs first to wait.” And when I started mopping the floor, she thanked me for cleaning up ‘her cafe’ and offered to make me a coffee while I mopped.
One night, we went shopping for presents at a Lego store when she uncharacteristically picked up a big box and insisted on buying it. We later realised that it wasn’t the Lego item she wanted to buy – it was the red ‘Sale’ sign she wanted. When it was told to her that the sign can’t be purchased, big tear drops rolled down, and the stall assistant fumbled around to make her smile again. “I give you this, but you don’t tell my boss!” the kind man offered. We came home with this:
“Everything in my cafe is on sale tomorrow! Everyday! Everything is on sale everyday!” she exclaimed on the way home. I shall confess that I wanted to cry. Tears of amusement, of pride, of bittersweetness that my girl, all of four, has a entrepreneurial spirit I never thought possible in a little one.
She keeps her wooden pepper shaker in the compartment of her kitchen she assigned as the fridge, while the salt shaker stays outside. “Because you keep the pepper in the fridge, mommy! You don’t keep the salt inside!” Cheeses, fruits and veggies are in as well. In goes the pizza too, because “there is cheese on the pizza, Mommy”. Yes.
She holds make-believe birthday parties in her cafe. I’m made to bake a “big roasted vanilla chocolate cake” from this “new recipe book that has many many good recipes”. I help her pack goodie bags for the birthday party. She sets up a tray with little stack cups and a teapot – “So my customers can pour iced water themselves and I won’t be so tired!”. The teapot gets ‘refilled’ when the sound stops (this teapot makes some swooshing sound when it gets tilted).
My picnic basket is now her pantry. She stores sweet treats from school in a bag. These, she wants to serve coffee with. “It’s a surprise when they order!” And there are stickers (real), and ‘marshmallows’ (not real – they are the tap knobs in the kitchen set”) that go with every order. She collects short pencils – “these are for my customers to try the ice cream flavours”.
Her latest cafe addition is the receipt, an idea from Aunty Imp. She keeps them neatly in a small basket, ready to be issued out to her make-believe customers.
Oh yes, she has ‘Daily Specials’, subject to change in accordance to her whim and fancy. I know her Tuesday’s Special is grapefruit sundae, but “if it is not available, you can come another day. We have strawberry orange cake with vanilla today.” Everyday, there is latte and cappuccino and flat white, because “we have coffee everyday”.
Just last night, we caught her snooping around in the corner of her cafe, tearing up a pack of sweets I gave to her, meant for a treat after school the next day. We were presumptuous and scolded her for eating sweets without our permission. In between her chokes and tears, she explained later that she was trying to save the sweets for her cafe so “every customer can have a sweet with their coffee”. Oh, the guilt that cut through me like a steel fork scratched across the blackboard.
She’s come up with a Christmas menu. You can look forward to wooden strawberry shortcake and orange macarons. We are going shopping for Christmas sweets (real, not wooden) to serve our customers with. Daddy’s buying her a folder to keep her menu dry and neat, and we’re brainstorming names for her little venture.
Reservations are welcome. I’ll make a ‘Reserve’ sign soon.
If you are keen to work for a bossy but impossibly entertaining little girl, you may apply here. Be prepared to get scolded once in a while because the boss is incredibly particular about the neatness of her work station and you must always “serve with a smile and say “Enjoy your meal!'” We can’t pay you much but you can help yourself to free flow wooden food.
To be continued…