Lemon Drops

by Beth Phillips

 

The morning rush hour. I think every household has it. Family members scrambling left and right and all around gathering their belongings, pulling themselves together all in an effort to get out the door and start their day. 
Ours is no different than any others. We’ve changed a lot over the years. In the early years, there was a lot of hands-on work getting the kids up, making sure they brushed their teeth, getting them dressed, making their breakfast, signing permission slips, gathering bookbags, and walking them to the bus stop where you stand with other half awake parents (of course there’s always that one morning parent aka my husband who wants to chat the whole time) waiting for the big yellow bus to arrive.
Now-a-days, there’s more coaxing than hands-on work to be done. Teenagers can be, I say this with some hesitation, more independent. There’s the occasional, “Get up you’re gonna be late!” kinda mornings, but for the most part everyone does their own thing to get out the door.
There used to be five of us scrambling through our morning routine. Now with our oldest away at school, we’re down to four and soon we’ll be three with our daughter graduating this spring and heading off to school in the fall.
We’ve moved from sippy cups with lids to tall, stainless steel tumblers with iced, mocha coffee made from the Keurig and nicely combed hair to the scuffled, wet hair look from a morning shower that emptied the hot water tank. Some things don’t change, though, like milk being slurped from cereal bowls and toast crumbs left on the counter.
Not long after the whirlwind of the teenager chaos, my husband walks in. He’s moving quickly but not as fast paced, makes his latte and gathers his computer book bag and keys preparing for his exit out the door. When he’s ready, he casually kisses me on the cheek, encourages me to have a good day, and then he’s gone to tackle his day.
Silence.
Most often the silence comes before the storm, but in this case, the morning rush, the silence always comes after the storm. Will I ever get used to it? Possibly.
The calmness doesn’t last long once I look at the clock and notice I’m about 10 minutes behind schedule. This is typical for me. Now I’m kicking myself for not packing my lunch the night before and organizing my things.
As I pick through the crisper rummaging through carrots, avocados, half used onions and jalapeno peppers, I come across a few lemons. I pick one up and kinda toss it aside discouraged that I can’t find anything that tempts my taste buds. I shut the crisper then the refrigerator door, walk over to the counter, stand for a minute, and then walk back to the refrigerator. I open it and take out the lemon.
Standing there, paused with the refrigerator doors opened and holding the lemon, I smile.
Today’s our wedding anniversary. — not forgotten; just pushed aside by the chaos of the morning rush hour .
In that moment, a lifetime of memories came to me like a flood wall bursting with water. One memory in particular warms my heart.
Memories. They’re triggered in so many ways. A smell reminds you of grandma’s cooking. A song reminds you of a night out with girlfriends or that bad breakup you had with the guy who was the one. A picture reminds you of a vacation or an experience you had.
Or…a piece of fruit, such as a lemon, reminds you of a goodbye that led to a hello .
That night we went to Duffer’s bar not far from my small, one bedroom apartment. It sat near a lumber store and railroad tracks. The parking lot was small, underlit and not very full. We stepped out of his light-blue Ford Ranger truck with crank windows and manual locks and walked across the lightly graveled parking lot to the doors. He opened the door for me, always a gentleman, and we walked in.
It was dark and grungy inside but also welcoming. The place wasn’t very big at all, and the oval-shaped bar area filled the room. Pool tables lined one end of the bar like many average whole-in-the-wall bars that you might frequent in your 20s (or late 20s in our case).
We each ordered a beer and set out to play a game of pool. He was very patient with my less-than-stellar pool playing skills giving me pointers on how to hold the cue stick and shoot the ball. We played a few games and had some laughs.
Taking a break, he led me over to the oval-shaped bar and we sat down. The bar stools were tall and a little rickety, but fine. The bartender asked what we wanted to drink. She was young, about our age, very nice and easy to talk to.
We ordered a couple beers. We talked getting to know each other better. We’d gone out before, but mostly as friends with other friends. I guess you could say this was a “first” date; I do remember having a few first date butterfly jitters fluttering around in my stomach. But for the most part, we were two friends going out for drinks.
At one point, I excused myself to go to the ladies room. Upon my return, I noticed the bartender mixing up a few shots. She rimmed the edge of two chilled shot glasses with lemon juice and dipped them into sugar then filled them with vodka and placed a lemon wedge on top.
She carefully carried them over and placed them in front of us. “These are on the house.”
She took us by surprise, “That’s so thoughtful and cool. What are they?”
“Lemon drops.” I couldn’t get over how nice this bartender was.
We lifted our glasses and shot the shots, so to speak, then quickly picked up the lemon wedges and sucked on them. I’d never had a lemon drop before and it was pretty good.
Shortly after, he looked over at me with a little, mischievous smile.
“What?” with a curious look on my face.
He leaned in and whispered to me, “While you were in the restroom, I ordered the shots and asked the bartender to tell you they were on the house.”
I laughed, “Really?!” He nodded, “Yep.” I enjoyed his playful sense of humor and how easy it was to simply hang out with him. We played a few more games of pool and listened to music from the jukebox.
Later in the evening, I noticed it was getting late. I had to work the next day, so I didn’t want to stay out late.
Deciding it was time to head home, we left through the same doors we entered and walked through the small somewhat graveled parking lot, which still wasn’t very full. He opened the door for me, always a gentleman, and I hopped in the light-blue Ford Ranger truck with the crank windows and manual locks.
My apartment complex was on the same road as the bar. A short ten-minute drive, if that.
He parked then walked me through a dimly lit, windy corridor to my apartment door.
Standing under the single porch light, I turned and thanked him for a fun night. Fidgeting a little bit, we weren’t sure how to say goodnight. Technically, we were still just friends.
We leaned into each other and he placed his hand just under the nape of my neck. “Can I kiss you?” I responded with a kiss. Pulling back, we looked at each other and that’s when we knew a goodbye led to a hello .
Returning to my task, I put the lemon back in the crisper, eventually pack my lunch, and gather my things, and as run out the door to tackle my day, I brush by our family photo.
I pause then smile. — who would’ve thought a piece of fruit, such as a lemon, would’ve been the start of a lifetime together.