What do you do if life gives you lemons? You make lemonade, or so they say. The particular ingredients sometimes dictate the recipe, like those people who take stock of the leftovers in the refrigerator and then decide what to make for supper. You don’t always get to determine the mix, especially when you are a kid, but figuring out what to do with your own particular set of ingredients is where things can get truly interesting.
Life sometimes does give you lemons, and circumstances of abundance come and go. Learning to deal in whatever scenario comes your way, may be the best life skill you can develop.
It is the nature of human ingenuity to think your way out of a box. Consider those who have ever landed behind four concrete walls and a set of bars, and successfully planned an escape. Or those throughout history who have gone beyond the obvious. They have taken some basic ingredients and thought about how to cobble them together into something new.
When I was a kid, there was the generic DAD workshop. If you had a dad, you also had a workshop. It was a place of mystery, where you likely were not encouraged to be. A few boards or pieces of wood here and there, some screws and nails, glue, maybe a makeshift workbench for those times when Dad was forced into the role of Mr. Fixit. For a kid, all that stuff was gold. It was the world of possibility.
Recap to ten years old. Dream gift for Christmas, a brand new Hot Wheels racing track, the one with the loop the loop, and the cool jump. Likelihood of getting it… perhaps slim if you were in a big family with lots of kids. Not so the neighbour. He was the only boy from a family of two whose Christmas expectations were rarely disappointed. He got the present I dreamed of, the brand new Hot Wheels set.
Of course he wanted me to come over and play with it. I tried not to be jealous. And so I looked in our garage. There was a bevy of tin cans, discarded. There were pliars and tin snips, basic tools, and a soldering iron. There was a few tubes of epoxy glue, a hammer and anvil and a metal vise screwed onto to a dusty plywood tabletop. A few old bicycle inner tubes stood off to the side, apparently needing a patch. The stuff of basic ingredients. If you blurred your eyes, It was not just a pile of odds and ends. You can do some odd and interesting things with a pile of junk if you have the time and some patience.
And so I cut open all the tin cans and pounded them flat. With the vise and a hammer, I bent the cans over a block of wood, and crimped the edges. I snipped out tongues on one side, and folded over a sleeve on the other end to mate with the tongues. When I had enough sections, I cut out tracks from the old bicycle tires and glued them in place. When I was done, I had a Hot Wheels set that was quite unique. It could do things my friends’s could not. When I showed him, he became jealous, and suddenly my own stock went up. I realized that, life can be literally what you make of it.
I still like making things. It is the world of endless possibility. Life does also occasionally hand you lemons. But it is always reassuring to remember: if you can figure out how to make lemonade, your puzzled frown might just turn into a smile.