When I was nine-years-old my parents got divorced. I was by no means the oldest of the eight children being stuck in the middle as daughter number four, but the cooking chores somehow fell to me when my mother went back to work. She was not a very good cook and her prowess decreased when the bulk of our food came from our monthly welfare boxes.
Back then there was no shiny EBT card masquerading as a debit card so that no one knew you were poor like we were. Nope, we had to drive in my mom’s car that often would not start and honked when she turned left announcing to everyone in the area that the poor family had just arrived to pick up boxes of surplus foods. It was humiliating. The only thing worse than the pick-up was trying to make meals from the disgusting items in the boxes. Canned pork, chicken, and beef all covered in some snot-like jelly were not on the top of the list of my most hated foods. No, that spot was reserved for the powdered eggs. Block cheese, corn syrup, oatmeal, peanut butter, and what I now know was high-quality real butter. And lard. So much lard that to this day I still know what I was supposed to do with so much of that after I made biscuits and pie crusts.
Each day I was responsible for trying to make meals that one of my seven siblings would eat without complaining. Rare was the day when that happened. My mom left a little cash in a special place so that I could supplement what I saw as garbage food with supermarket vegetables and fruits and other things that we thought were the best. Like sliced bread!
One day, sick of my complaining about how we never got what other kids at school got for food, my mother told me to use my head and come up with a solution to what I perceived as a problem.
The same day a neighbor brought over boxes of lemons a friend from Florida had driven up after their vacation. These did not look like the pretty yellow lemons I’d seen our stores or on commercials. No, these were huge and green and filled with juice. A plan began to form.
I took the peanut butter and oatmeal and butter and other ingredients and made several different types of cookies. Then I juiced those lemons and made lemonade. Not lemonade like you get from the soda dispenser today or the gunk made from powder. No, this was that sweet and tart beverage poured over ice, the kind that almost made your teeth hurt it was so cold.
My mother had been given some Tupperware tumblers and those, alongside the scratched and banged up metal ones, were lugged outside along with a table and a sign announcing our first cookie and lemonade stand. Looking back, I think I probably put too high a price on what we sold but I rightfully compared my thick, soft, delicious cookies to the hard grocery store disks and the Kool-Aid to my lemonade and I’m now sure the prices were fair.
I roped my sisters into washing the cups and racing them out to me to fill with the delicious nectar as people patiently waited to be served. The line seemed to go on forever and by the time the last cup was washed and the final cookie was eaten I had earned a lot of money with which to buy food to supplement the welfare food. I don’t remember any high praise from my mom but she allowed us to continue making cookies and we added on caramel corn and rock candy to peddle door to door.
Today is National Lemonade Day and if I learned any lesson well as a little girl it was that I had to make lemonade out of lemons, sweets out of welfare food.
Lemons are my favorite fruit to this day. If I order a pie the first thing I think of is lemon meringue. I make lemon curd, lemon cookies, and I eat lemons like oranges. When I call our rescue dogs lemons I am not being negative as is often the connotation when we apply that word to cars, for example.
As we start this first Sunday in May with twenty-eight lemons our goal is to turn them into lemonade. That’s where you come in. Every single one of our rescue dogs is capable of being lemonade. They need a home like those lemons needed a person to take them off our neighbor’s hands. They need love and food and training like I needed water and sugar, a pitcher and cups to start my business. Maybe you’d prefer comparing these dogs to butter or oatmeal or cheese. It doesn’t matter because what matters is that there are twenty-eight dogs who are waiting for the magic to happen.
Twenty-eight scared or anxious dogs waiting for someone to see such value in them that they are willing to take whatever other ingredients needed to turn these dogs into the doggy version of lemonade or cookies.
Whether you are looking for a pair of bonded senior dogs or an active Shepherd we have a dog for you. Large or small or in between, we have the best dogs in Northeast Wisconsin. One day, heartsick from seeing homeless dogs with the potential to be great companion pets languish in shelters or euthanized due to lack of space our owner came up with a solution to what seems to be a never-ending problem. He decided to turn lemons into lemonade.
Twenty-eight dogs. But imagine the human lives that will be changed because one of those dogs found a home in a family and a community. Make some lemonade today. Come in an adopt your perfect pet today.