All My Friends Are Lemons

Lemons in the car sense are mistakes. Regrets. Lemons in the friend sense are the family that you get to pick, from whichever tree you choose. In high school, I somehow magically ended up having the privilege to be included in a group of girls, now women, that have remained close, even closer, as the years have gone by.

We recently got together for our annual-ish reunion, this time in Sherborn, Massachusetts where Stacey and Elisa have a house. With a woodshop. And a carriage house. Sitting on some acreage of land that makes my two-bedroom condo seem, well, like a two-bedroom condo. Stacey and Elisa like subtlety. Their wedding had a subtle space theme. Their house has a subtle lemon theme. Which is fitting, because all my friends are lemons.

We sat around in the carriage house, all of us that remain, and played with Stacey and Elisa’s son Miles, the most adorable toddler. A basket of fake lemons caught his attention, and he proceeded to hand out each lemon to different members of the group. He would then gather them all up in his toddler hands and start the game again. Stacey had previously told us the remarkable story of how they had acquired a giant still life painting of lemons that hung very high on the wall of the carriage house. I believe the origins involved something romantic like Craigslist and Home Goods.

On Friday, October 13th, 2017, a week after our reunion, the following poem from the Writer’s Almanac showed up in my inbox:

Summer of Lemons by Marjorie Thomsen
It was the summer of lemons
being replaced by oranges. Lemons,
they said, had lost something
that lemons sometimes lose. Painters
piled Navels and Valencias, mixed red
into yellow for Still Life with Oranges;
the wooden bowl beautiful with lonely
cracks, organic with time and handling.
Evening, men and women squeezed
wedges from the larger fruit, a squall
over flounder. Mothers whisked sweeter
juice into oil, sherry vinegar, crush
of garlic. Seaside, we sprayed oysters
then peppered as usual. In the absence
of lemons, there was a thirsting to taste
water kindled with novelty, set ablaze by
unplumbed citrus. Slices like thin suns
were cut to fit the rim line, to spin
the circumference of goblets and jam
jars. It was then, drinking
what was more July than June,
that we returned to each other.

I starred the email because of the reference to lemons. By the way, I just asked my husband about my car-friend-lemon analogy and he says it doesn’t work. That lemons are lemons and friends are friends and sometimes things just happen randomly. But, I take note when things appear and reappear in my life. And I had this thought on the plane home from Logan to DCA that somehow my friends could be summed up by a metaphor. I think the point is that I loved those two old cars because of their quirks and kinks and the fact that I paid $400 cash for that first Nissan Sentra silver blue hatchback with the racing stripes and a sunroof that leaked and an engine that somehow only ran on half of its cylinders. And I love my friends because they are unique and different and irreplaceable. They got me from point A to point B.

Now, today’s poem that I received from the Writer’s Almanac will be the last. I go to click the link to “Listen Online” and the Voice is gone. That voice, that iconic voice that I grew up listening to has vanished into a statement from Minnesota Public Radio that glares at me on my iPhone. It’s not the statement that’s a surprise – I’d seen the news article earlier today via Twitter, but that that voices and words and faces so quickly get taken down these days. Links no longer work. Two of my friends have passed already, voices and words and faces are fading. Stacey pointed out to me while we were sitting around talking that I don’t remember or record things the way they actually happened. That’s what this is. This is a dreamoir. My attempt to make permanent that which is a vapor, a whisper, a slip of a life. “Slices like thin suns,” as Marjorie Thomsen wrote.

We are all fallible. We are all fallen. We all fall. Like lemons from a tree into a bowl where they will sit and be painted as a permanent record of a still life. But life is not still. And Stacey’s painting was from Home Goods, and the lemons in the bowl were fake. But my friends are real, and I know this. Because if cars that are lemons are mistakes and regrets, then the only lemon in this still life is me.

And yet, we return to each other.

Rachel Wimerfriendship