You’re sitting on the front steps of the little two bedroom place that you and your new bride rent — your charming little cottage with the big picture window and the hardwood floors recently refinished — and the baby is expected but not arrived yet, so she still pays attention to you, especially today that the warm sun is coming through the lemon tree and warming the cement and there is somehow, miraculously, nothing to do.
You lean to the left and there is warm sun, almost hot, openness, and laughter. You lean to the right and there is cool shade and secrets not yet revealed. Hot and cold. Yin and yang. And together they form perfection. What could possibly improve all this?
What if in this scene, the two people previously pictured, you and the woman of swollen belly, your lover and wife, were sitting in the falling sunshine with glasses of cold lemonade in your hands and the tinkling of ice cubes in your ears?
So you get up and wrestle the ladder that leans against the house. You climb precariously to the loveliest lemons near the top of the tree standing on the sticker that says, “This is not a step.” You pick three lemons and realize you have no way to gather more, nowhere to put them, and of course, the ivy at the foot of the tree swallows anything dropped without a trace. So you tuck in your shirt doing a funny dance at the top of the ladder, your audience laughing from down below. You drop the lemons down your shirt and continue picking, looking increasingly comic as the lemons make you look pregnant too.
You climb down and disappear into the house, the cool house. Chop, chop, chop. Cut each lemon in half with the Chinese clever. Work each lemon over the glass juicer you found on the Saturday garage sale outings until your right arm hurts, then switch to your left. Fill up a bowl, and get another. Juice every last lemon until you have a few quarts of juice. Taste it with a finger. Oooo, sour.
Don’t forget to strain the seeds through the cheesecloth you keep in the drawer on the end.
You put a few cups of water on the stove to boil and sit down at the kitchen table to wait. The cool dark of the house sucks at the warm brightness just outside the door.
You look around this kitchen that you and she put together from the total of both your stuff. Your knife, your wok, your cookware. All the pink plasticware that her mom gave her little girl when she moved into her very own place. And you remember again that you are criticized for thinking in terms of yours and mine. “Its all our stuff now,” your wife says.
When the water boils, you drop in several cups of sugar, enjoying how it puts its fingers to its lips and shushes you as you pour. Dissolve the sugar and add this solution to the lemon juice.
You pinch in just a tiny bit of salt. Yes, its true, your wife thinks that’s weird, but you know it makes perfect lemonade taste even better.
Adjust the amount of sugar in this concentrate. You want the sweet and the sour to achieve a perfect balance. Yin and yang again. Put this mix in the big juice pitcher.
Now if you weren’t wanting to go back out on the steps right now, you’d put the mix in the fridge until it cooled. But you can chill that warm concentrate with ice. Fill up a couple big glasses with ice cubes and pour the warm concentrate over. Not too much now, you can always add more if it’s too weak.
Add just enough ice water from the fridge. After a little bit, you’ll get the hang of “just enough.”
Don’t forget to re-fill the ice trays. You usually remember, even though your lover usually forgets. There are unresolved issues of protocol here. Each one of you has his or her definitions of considerate. You’re slowly re-learning what’s right and what’s important, according to her.
You grab a box of crackers and balance the two glasses and step blindly out into the sunshine. “Here, Honey,” you say as you hand one glass over with a bow. She reaches up, mumbles a half-hearted thanks and continues reading.
There is a moment of waiting. Did you expect applause? By now, you realize the little kindnesses are seldom recognized. But is it worth making a bit deal about right now?
You make your way to the porch swing on the other side of the house, not quite as idyllic, full shade rather than dappled sunshine. But you have a glass of lemonade and the ice talks gently against the side of the glass. And you’re alone and its okay and the journey matters more than the destination anyway.