Loss and the Art of Making Lemonade

lemonsI distrust citrus. Instead, I fill the grocery cart with dark blueberries, ruby strawberries, pale green bananas, fuzzy brown kiwis, and pinkish red apples. Carrots or the odd orange bell pepper usually suffice for the splash of orange; limes are an occasional purchase for making Pad Thai or garnishing a well-deserved margarita. I have peeled too many oranges and enjoyed their sweet fragrance only to have a dehydrated husk of flesh revealed instead. I have likewise sliced into countless lemons, not to find a creamy yellow juicy interior, but a light brown catacomb. The bright yellow exterior, so reminiscent of sunshine and summer and sweetness, is a false advertisement.

Aside from lemons’ deceitful exteriors (apples are so much more honest about their flaws), lemons also symbolize an unfair deal, a loss. Perhaps you purchased a new car but then discovered it was a lemon. Moreover, when life gives you that lemon, you’re gently reminded and encouraged to make yourself some lemonade with it. Unfortunately, most lemons that we receive in life are not the sort that we want to turn into lemonade. We struggle to turn our dark, bitter moments into something refreshingly tart with a hint of sweet pizzazz.

This week, we’ve certainly received some unwanted lemons that represent quite the loss to us. After mounts of planning, we finally applied for our loan for the Tumbleweed; we were approved, but not for enough for what we really wanted (and frankly needed). As we were trying to problem solve, we encountered another life lemon: we lost the place where we intended to park our Tumbleweed. One problem or the other would have likely been solvable, but both together seemed insurmountable. It feels so much harder to lose a dream that was on the verge of tangible materialization—so much more like the brown catacomb of a bad lemon than the promise of something sweet to come in its place. We have spent the last several days mourning the immediate loss of this dream as we try to regroup and develop a new plan for proceeding.

In the spirit of trying to be positive about these setbacks, I bought a large bag of lemons and made homemade lemonade this weekend. For each step, I’ve thought of the positives that have also come from this week.

1. It looks like the husband is going to remain full time at work next year. His enrollment numbers look good, so it is significantly less likely that his position would be reduced to 80%, even with the awfulness that’s going on with the state budget.

Make simple syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a pot; bring to a simmer, and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

2. We are so fortunate to have such caring friends. For starters, we have friends that were willing to even explore the idea of us living on their property. For seconds, we have friends that seem as upset as we are that our dream house is going to stay a dream a bit longer yet. We are touched by your empathy.

SqueezedlemonsJuice the lemons: it’s helpful to roll the lemons hard on your cutting board to make the juicing easier. Then cut in half and squeeze—I did this all by hand since I don’t even have an old fashioned juicer. Strain if you don’t like pulp (we do) and cast away the seeds. You’ll need one cup of freshly squeeze lemon juice. Incidentally, I felt rather wrung out myself after this week and sympathized more with lemon halves than perhaps I ever have before.

3. We have the support of our families. They likely think we’re nuts for wanting to go tiny, but they were actively engaged with helping us trying to determine a solution and have been encouraging through this entire process.

Combine the liquids: Add the cooled syrup to your serving pitcher, then your lemon juice, and then add in four cups of cold water. Taste the lemonade and adjust the sweetness/tartness by either adding more sugar, more lemon juice, or deciding its perfect just the way it is.

lemonade4. We have a comfortable small house to live in where we can have our four pets, a large garden, and the bees we had already ordered (what’s that expression about counting chickens?). We like our odd little rental, with its very imperfect kitchen and its very perfect location. We will not have to purchase a second car—something we are both quite thankful for.

Chill and serve the lemonade with ice and sliced lemons.

Here’s the recipe for the literal lemonade. The metaphoric lemonade has to be made entirely to taste from whatever lemons you’re given.

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