Monday, June 23, 2014

When Life Takes Away Your Lemons

"When life gives you lemons ..."

It's a saying we've all heard. When life gives us proverbial lemons, we crack jokes. Make lemonade. Ask for sugar and water. Squirt them in people's eyes. Get your friends to bring salt and tequila. Bake a pie.

We make jokes until we squeeze our way out of our sour situation into sweeter territory (terrible puns intended). But what happens when the situation spins a full 180, reverses right up onto your expectations, and life takes your lemons away instead? 

I recently had the juice knocked out of my tumbler when the universe decided to play havoc with the natural order of destruction, and take away my lemons - and the tree on which the lemons grew, and the backyard in which the tree stood, and the house over which the tree shaded.

The phone call from the landlord came on a nondescript Wednesday afternoon, an unceremonious conversation to announce that our beloved wild backyard was to be turned over the future: a scraggly grass canvas for a blonde-brick two-story townhouse resplendent with shortened eaves, double garage, paved courtyard and secure gun-metal grey letterbox. 

It would all have to go - the archaic lemon tree and it's communal bevy of produce, the stone fruit tree that ripened from hard to rotten with no in-between, the swaying verandah frame and it's pepper-holed polycarbonate roofing sheets, and the useless bicycle-part-and-reflector-light scarecrow buried beneath the overgrown lawn.

In the space of one phone call, I was brought back down to the reality that I was a tenant and not a home-owner, perched precariously in someone else's house at the permission of their contractual obligations and the mercy of their lifestyle choices, mortgage repayments and blonde-brick two-story townhouse dreams.

More the point, I was brought crashing down to the reality that we would have to move house. Again. With a dog. And a toddler. And three bedrooms full of furniture and cloth nappies and singing walkers and the general accumulated crap of two exhausted parents and a miniature hoarder with a penchant for shiny objects.

There was shock. There was panic. There was anger. There was extreme ranting at my husband, who looked like he might quite like to move house all by himself just to get away from me for a while. Then there was sweet, sweet denial.

The denial phase was kind to us. We had visitors from interstate, we potted plants in the yard, we bought more crap that would eventually have to move house with us, and our daughter  even managed to turn one, complete with a coming of age tricycle and number one birthday cake.

And so it was that we found ourselves knee deep in the aftermath of first birthday celebrations, covered in sticky green icing and crumpled wrapping paper, when the tree loppers arrived to exterminate the backyard and our ability to ignore the situation any longer.

The sound was horrific, much like a toddler squealing their dissatisfaction with the removal of their favourite toy, or a labouring woman expressing her vehement disagreement with her partner's decision to sit down for a quick cuppa and ham and tomato sandwich in the middle of transition.

After several hours of auditory torture, the tree lopping crew and the trees were gone, and with them, the sense of home. Without the trees, without the lemons, without the sun dappled light and the scratchy leaves and the boughing branches banging on the window, our rambling old terrace was nothing but an old house that belonged to someone else - crumbling mortar, sagging front door, cracked pavement, broken lattice, haggard tree stumps and an unshakeable tendency toward shedding dust and attracting ants.

Inspired by the devastation, we packed up our denial and our belongings and got out of there as quickly as we could. One truck, fifteen car trips, seven million trailer loads, and only a handful of tears and swear words, and we have successfully transplanted ourselves into another inner-outer-inner suburb, with the dog and toddler and tricycle all still (relatively) intact.

We don't have any lemons anymore, or a magnificent old lemon tree in a ramshackle old yard to shade under in the summer months. But we do have a giant olive tree out the front of the new place that looks like it's going to deliver in abundance.

Tapenade, anyone?

M x


  1. The building over backyards in our suburbs really annoys me. My aging neighour has a fabulous yard and I have told her, (even though I am not sure where I will find the cash should she say yes) that if she is ever to move out, could she subdivide first, sell me her yard and then sell the house, because we all know that the buyer of her 1960s yellow brick house is going to bulldoze it and build townhouses. If I could just grab the yard first I can secure it forever. Or my forever anyway.

  2. Meg, this is such a beautifully written post. You've nailed it completely. This is the second time I've read it as I received it via my email subscription. It makes me want to give the blogging game away! Excellent work :)

  3. Nice to meet you via IBOT - your writing is very evocative and I love the sense of nostalgia - it is sad how 'progress' isn't always. Hope you settle well into your new home and the olive tree bears fruit.