No, Actually I Am Not Related to the Collyer Brothers.


Meyer lemon season has hit at Trader Joe’s so I have been making lemonade for weeks by squishing lemons on Great-Aunt Helen’s old Pyrex juicer and mixing the liquid with simple syrup and cold water in my grandmother’s ancient glass pitcher with the yellow roses painted on the side. While not an arduous process it does fill the better part of thirty minutes. Oh, I know the local grocery store is happy to sell me Paul Newman’s Virgin Lemonade located conveniently in the refrigerator case but I don’t want it – and not just because I have no idea what a virgin lemon is. (Aren’t all lemons ‘virgin’ until they have been squeezed?) I don’t want to buy it readymade because no matter how hellish my week has been, there is something calming and satisfying about the process of making lemonade.

It’s funny that I feel this way because everyone knows that I am no Julia Child acolyte. No one will ever see me standing in Barnes & Noble weighing the merits of Jacques Pepin and Alain Ducasse; I live on Cap’n Crunch when Jamie isn’t around to prepare dinner. Additionally, my utter lack of desire for a new, unbreakable, plastic pitcher or a shiny, zippy, electric juicer has nothing to do with either ease of meal prep or reluctance to bring new items into my home; anyone who has ever seen my Bergdorf bill could attest to that. (When Jamie and I bet who had more of the chosen favorite sartorial object – his ties or my shoes – I beat him by a furlong.)

No, it is something else entirely. When I consider it deeply, I realize that making lemonade isn’t important of itself: While I like lemonade, it is truly only the connections that I want; using my family’s belongings brings them to life again in my mind. Lemons remind me of the lemon meringue pies my grandmother used to make in the summer when we were upstate. The glass pitcher sparks an image of my mom brewing tea and pouring it into the pitcher once it had cooled. Anything of Aunt Helen’s brings a vision of her making pizzelle cookies to my mind and tears to my eyes.

No one will ever gift me one of those Japanese declutter books because it’s for damned sure that I would donate the book to the local library before I surrendered even one of my parents’ Shiny Brite ornaments. When I was an undergrad I had an Intro to Psych professor named Andrew Barkley who taught imprinting. He said that the age that your same sex parent was at your birth is the age at which you will see yourself exhibiting the character traits and behavioral habits of that person. Dr. Barkley was right. Although I am way older now than my mother was at my birth, I have noticed that I have become her. My mom treasures her roots more than anyone I have ever met and now I wear her pearl earrings nearly every day; I dab Penhaligon’s Lily-of-the-Valley scent on my wrists because my grandmother used to wear it; Jamie and I have hung his parents’ enormous Piranesi etchings on the walls of our library.

Apparently I am destined to enter my sundown years surrounded by the things that connect me to the world I came from. I am not overly concerned; it is comforting and there are surely worse ways to go. Besides, in my will I can always leave it all to my niece, Vikki.

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