One of the most optimistic axioms of modern life is this:
When life hands you lemons…make lemonade.
So simple. Through all of life’s ups and downs, just add a little of your own sweetness and the bitter lemons are transformed into a refreshing summer beverage. My Mom was a big believer in making lemonade out of life’s lemons and I learned from her that it is better to work to sweeten the lemons you are given than to sit around feeling sorry for the sourness they bring into your life.
I thought of this the other day when I was looking at my kitchen counter. I realized that, rather than being handed a bunch of lemons, I have been overrun with onions. I mean this in both a literal and figurative sense. We joined a farm collective and have been receiving fresh fruits and veggies all summer. We worked hard to keep up with the most perishable items, using them as quickly as we could so that they didn’t spoil. The more hardy foods were sometimes pushed aside, because we knew we had a little time to use them. One of these languishing foods was onions.
And so, we come to a place where our cup runneth over with onions. Big onions, small onions. What to do with all of these onions? I noticed them a few days ago, spilling out of their bowls, losing their papery skins, pushed to the back of the kitchen counter. I looked at them. They are really beautiful, earthy, pungent, oniony…but there are so many that they are a bit overwhelming.
Those onions are a metaphor for my life over the summer. Things have not been sweet and easy. It has sometimes been a struggle just to get through the day. My days have been very oniony. If life handed me lemons, I could find a way to sweeten them up and make lemonade. But onions? I was unsure just how to deal with all of that strong flavor. I found myself thinking about what we are called to do when life hands us onions.
The one thing I knew was that, no matter how I planned to use them, preparing those onions was going to make me cry. Onions have to be chopped or sliced, and I always react to cutting onions with lots of tears. Still, the only way I know to make something from onions is to cut them, working my way through the tears. I thought of using some of those onions as a symbol of moving past the “onions” I have been allowing to pile up in my life.
Onions, water, and some herbs went into a big pot. A little butter, a little bouillon, a lot of cooking and voila… a hearty soup that warms up tummies and a family dinner that warms up hearts. I learned a lot from those onions. I learned not to be overwhelmed by their number, not to be afraid of the pungency, not to be afraid of the tears. In making lemonade, we find a way to add our own particular sweetness to the bitter lemons life gives us. When life hands us bitter onions, we can add our tears and a little love and we end up with something that warms and nourishes and sustains us.