Bittersweet

My cousin makes the best lemon meringue pie ever.

One reason has to be the magic lemon tree that grows
behind her home in Oakland.

Those lemons have no season, I swear,
the tree’s green leaves hiding beneath
the cascading storm of huge yellow fruit year round.

These lemons are tart, not sour.

I’d say they’re even on the sweet side, their natural sugar
content, it seems, higher than the average lemon, perhaps
thanks in part to the proximity of Lake Merritt’s nurturing
waters just across the street.

It’s my good fortune that when she knows I’m coming, my
cousin sets to work – and she always assures me it’s hard
work – making me my favorite pie.

But that’s what cousins are for.

When my cousin and her friends come together to celebrate
my arrival, I’m also blessed because none of them,
including my cousin, can stand lemon meringue pie,
leaving it all for me.

Sadly, my cousin moved out of Oakland long ago,
and I’ve not had one of her lemon meringue pies since.

Whenever I’m in the Bay Area, the temptation is always
there to go back to Oakland, see if that enchanted tree
still stands.

What a shame it would be to discover that newer owners
had cut it down, oblivious of the prize pie-making lemon
tree they’d sacrificed.

Not that I’d sneak into the backyard and pilfer a bunch of
lemons, spirit them up to Oregon, present them to my
cousin, and sit waiting while she made my pie.

I’m not that kind of person.

I’m not that kind of cousin.

No, I’d knock on their door, regale them with tales of the great
pies my cousin made with those lemons over those many
long-ago years, ask if I might have a healthy handful, then jet
those golden gems up to Oregon and wait patiently for my
dear cousin to painstakingly produce my favorite pie
one more time.

Because that’s what cousins do for each other.

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