When Life Gives You Lemons… Make Lemon Curd

Lemons.Don’t get me wrong. I love lemonade. In the summer, when it is hotter than Hades, I guzzle down gallons of the stuff. But, let’s face it, lemonade is relegated to summer duty. And lemons, true lemons, come in the winters of our lives.

Things never just break. The oven will break on Thanksgiving, the air conditioning will break when it is 110 degrees out, and you will break out the night before that big interview. (all have happened to me – the oven on Thanksgiving – twice.)

So, I propose a new use of life’s lemons: curd. Preferably paired with some hot buttermilk pancakes and a metric buttload of butter. Because in times of true lemons, I don’t want a refreshing drink. I want soul comforting carbs. And sugar.

The holidays can often be a ‘lemon’ for people. There is extra stress, unachievable expectations, a calendar crammed with events, not to mention the financial strain. With all of this, I am still one of those freakish people who love the whole thing. However, even I admit that everyone is entitled to one good annual holiday breakdown.

This year, I went into the holidays knowing that they would be much different. Having a newborn, I had a strong desire to lock in traditions which will make my daughter’s Christmas experience magical for years to come. But I often found myself mourning the things she will never know. This sense of loss hit me the strongest a few days after Christmas.

My present this year was a beautiful wrist watch from my husband. I have not had a watch as an adult, though I always wanted one (hopefully, it will help me to actually be on time to things…ha!). The watch was a bit large, so I went to have a link removed for a better fit. The jeweler happily adjusted it and when he was done, asked me to put out my wrist so he could see the fit. I giddily thrust out my right hand ready to see my watch in all its glory. He looked up at me and exclaimed, “Ah, a left-handed lady!”.

This seems like a very innocent comment, yet this would be the cause for my holiday breakdown. Why? Well, I am not left-handed. The reason I wear a watch on my right hand is because my father put my first watch on me and HE was left-handed. In that moment, I was transported to my six-year-old self, with my dad, getting my Strawberry Shortcake watch velcroed on my wrist for the first time. I then looked down at my little girl, sleeping in her stroller, and the reality of our situation hit me.

She would never know my father.

She would never eat his Sunday pancakes, never go and cut down her Christmas tree with him, never feel his Christmas beard tickle her cheeks.

This spring will mark the 12th anniversary of my father’s death. Yet, with the birth of my daughter, I find myself reliving the grieving experience with every tradition. My husband likes to say that we humans die two deaths. The first, our physical departure from this planet. The second, the last time someone else speaks or thinks of you. My heart is heavy as I realize I alone hold the responsibility of continuing the memory of my father to my daughter. It will be up to me to share with her how much he loved the holidays. How his eyes lit up as he gave something special to my brother and I each year. How his resemblance to Santa always made me happy. How the smell of his coffee cup wafted through the air as we tore open presents. How he drove us around to see the lights sparkle on rooftops. How certain carols made him tear up every time.

And therein lies my Christmas lemon. I hope one day I will be able to make something good of it. To value the years I had with him instead of chewing on the bitter pith that he is no longer here; that he will never know his granddaughter.

As I pack up the last of the Christmas decorations, I pack up pieces of my father. And I hope and I pray that I will become as good as a parent as he was. That even in the craziness of the holidays, I will be able to carve out traditions with my daughter. Through these, I hope that the memory of my father will live on for years to come. That even though he will not know her, that she will still know him.

Maybe next year we will make lemon curd… and spread it over some of grandpa’s special pancakes.