Harper's CornerLemonology
By Jessica Harper
July 2011

"When God gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or maybe not..."

While channel-surfing, some time in Mid-May, I heard a character on Parks and Recreation say, “When God gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This was weird, because I had just made lemonade from backyard lemons.

In doing so, I’d been reminded of how often I’d given the lemonade advice to my daughters (although I’d left out the ‘God’ part), trying to teach them about turning a bad situation into a good one, sour into sweet. So, after making the actual lemonade, I had resolved to do it figuratively, to follow my own advice for a big fat change.

For example, Lemon #1: I was having an exceptionally bad hair day, due to the rain—a frizz festival. Here’s the lemonade I made out of it: Instead of beating my hair into submission with a straightening tool, I embraced the killer humidity and went full curl. I found that if I avoided mirrors, I could spend hours happily thinking I looked like Bernadette Peters.

Then there’s Lemon #2. I dropped and broke the gorgeous glass pitcher I had planned to fill with lemonade to serve at my garden party for the mahjong group. 
Lemonade: The pitcher was a wedding present from a friend-turned-bitch (who, I'm told, said something rude about my carpeting behind my back) so the hell with the pitcher (and with the bitch).

Lemon #3: Apparently traumatized by bad weather, a massive ficus tree fell in our back yard, crushing Tom’s basketball hoop (and narrowly missing the dog). 
Lemonade: I was temporarily spared the irritating boing-boing sound of Tom channeling Kobe Bryant and we now have enough firewood for the entire winter.

Lemon #4: It was pouring rain and there was a massive tree in the yard and my mahjong group were about to show up for a garden party, complete with hats to rival the Royals. 
Lemonade: I built them a fire thanks to the wood from Lemon #3. Then I put tulips on the coffee table so we could pretend we were in the garden, the illusion sustained by that big splash of vodka I dumped in the actual lemonade I’d made earlier.

Lemon #5: Sparks from the soggy firewood set the carpet on fire.
 Lemonade: Luckily I have actual (vodka) lemonade handy to douse the fire and I never liked that carpet anyway (which apparently puts me on the same page as the pitcher bitch from Lemon #2).

At day’s end, just as I glued myself to the television, hoping for a lemon-free hour, my daughter called to tell us weepily that it was likely to rain heavily all over her imminent college graduation. This was a perfect opening for the lemonade lecture. I started in, something about how lovely the ceremony would be if they moved it indoors…

Elizabeth said, "Mom, please. Don't. All I want you to say is, 'Gee, that really sucks.'"

She's right of course. Sometimes the sour things are just plain sour. As a PXEer, I've had my share of such moments lately. Sometimes it is a challenge to exercise lemonology when you're dealing with failing vision, although I keep trying.

For example, Lemon #1: I have always loved to read books but I can no longer do so. Lemonade: I can still read my computer and my iPad. Also, I have a whole world of audio books at my disposal.

Lemon #2: I love to travel, but it's getting tough, since I can't read flight or gate information, can't read a thermostat, a menu, a TV guide, a subway map or a street sign. Lemonade: Hey, at least I have the freedom to go places, and I usually make it from A to B in one piece, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Lemon #3: Another passion of mine is the theater, but when I try to focus on a speaking actor, they become a distorted blur, so the details of the performance and the play are equally blurred. Lemonade: I'm lucky I can afford theater tickets, and fifty percent of a play is better than none at all.

There are other lemons in my life, but I will end my list here, because the fact is that PXE is a lot worse for others than it is for me. However, there's one major loss I know most of us share, which is Lemon #4: We can no longer drive. Lemonade? Nah.

I remember when I told a friend the news that my license had been yanked, and she spoke like a true lemonologist: "Oh, you're lucky! I've always wanted to have a driver take me everywhere instead of having to do it myself."

I felt like shouting at her, "Really? You're eager to surrender your license in L.A., Land O' Cars? And, excuse me, a full-time driver? What are you, an heiress?" (Turns out she was, actually.) I said nothing, but I felt like Elizabeth did about her soggy graduation. All I had really wanted to hear my friend say was, "Gee, that really sucks."

So, my theory is that sometimes, when handed a lemon, it's good to just acknowledge its sourness, while other times it seems right to throw in a little sugar at it. Occasionally a mix of both is best. I'm going to keep refining my lemonology skills, starting with today's exercise: Lemon: We're having a nasty heat wave.Lemonade: Good excuse to make lemonade.

Here's how:


1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup superfine sugar
4 cups water

In a pitcher, combine the lemon juice and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the water and stir to combine. Add more sugar or lemon to taste. Refrigerate the lemonade, and serve very cold over ice.


For more articles by Jessica Harper, visit http://www.jessicaharper.com and http://www.thecrabbycook.com.