What is a Squeezed Lemon?
One afternoon while cooking in my small apartment kitchen, I thought about my life. In 2016, I started pursuing my degree at the local community college; a 50-year old undergraduate student. As I stirred, I reviewed my goals. As I chopped and minced, I formulated my plan. Finally, all of the items were in the pot. The last ingredient – lemon juice. I sliced the lemon in half, held it over the pot and squeezed. I can’t explain what came over me. With almost superhuman strength, I continued to squeeze. I attempted to get every drop of juice out of that lemon. Satisfied that I’d accomplished just that, I laid it on the counter. When I picked it up to throw it away, little droplets of juice pooled inches from where I laid it. I stared into those droplets and cried. I’d squeezed that lemon about as hard as life squeezed me, but it still had juice. It had more to give.
My daughter and I have been through a lot. Illness. Surgeries. Prolonged unemployment. Homelessness. Death. So many times I felt as though I had nothing left to give; only to rise and fight another day. What made me keep going? My thoughts drifted to my mom and women like her. My mom, a young mother of six, cleaned houses and scrubbed floors to put food on the table for her children. After marrying my dad, she had four more children, of which I am the oldest. She survived her three older sisters, buried two husbands and four of her ten children. Life squeezed mom pretty hard. Yet, she just kept going. She fought for us, and she taught us to fight. “Nothing beats a failure but a try,” she’d always tell us.
I lost my mom on November 8, 2017. The picture of this tree was taken outside of her apartment complex a few days before her death. I remember the unseasonably warm day with birds singing in a picture perfect, cloudless sky. When you stop to think about it, trees are amazing. The water that travels from their roots is the nourishment for their leaves. The Squeezed Lemons in our lives – past and present – give us strength. They teach us, encourage us, inspire us, and show us the way. They live among us without fanfare as the single mother who works full-time for a check that’s already spent, rarely receiving those “court-ordered” child support payments; yet, the bills get paid. She finds the energy to take college classes at night; hoping to build a better life for herself and her children. The “SL” ahead of you in the checkout line who hates using her EBT card, but since neither she nor her husband has received a raise, they need it to help make ends meet. Or the “SL” behind you, quietly praying that she has added correctly and won’t have to put something back. She’s the over 50 “SL” who has raised and educated the millennial, society and corporate America is so in love with, and also is the caregiver to an elderly parent or relative. She doesn’t appear on magazine covers declaring how great she looks for her age. She’s the mother splitting herself between her sick child in the hospital, and her other children at home (I met many of these brave women during my daughter’s frequent admissions to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia).
Two of the things my mom loved to do the most were sew and cook. We spent hours together doing both. Believe or not, my mom cooked practically everyday. As her little sous chef, I chopped, stirred and soaked up all her methods and a whole lot of know how. We planned our sewing projects, outfits and shopping trips. Mom had the innate ability to look at a piece of fabric and see a finished garment. To this day, my home away from home is the fabric store. Mom always said she could get on her machine and work out whatever was bothering her. I understand. Despite the “storms” life blows my way, working with my hands and engaging my creativity is a calming, orderly coping mechanism. It’s a reminder that reality does not control my dreams; my ability to see beyond the storm lies in my hands. Like mom, I just have to keep going.
To Squeezed Lemons everywhere, I welcome you home. Let’s share and support one another. I look forward to sharing my sewing, cooking and crafts projects with you, and seeing yours.
Brigitte Little, Editor-in-Chief