Lemon has the throne when it comes to Turkish culture. Growing up in Turkey, my first memory of lemon is the scent. Everyone and every place smelled like lemons thanks to lemon cologne. An alcohol-based “kolonya” with lemon essence was as ubiquitous in my childhood as hand sanitizer is today – except much more pleasant. It refreshed us during hot and steamy summer days. It protected us during the flu season. It was offered to guests after they feasted on the offerings of their hosts, or as a way to refresh upon arrival at someone’s home.
But this isn’t the only place lemon shows up in our culture. It is in the salad, in the chicken orzo soup, the stuffed cabbage, and grape leaves, antiseptic for allergic eyes, sprinkled with salt as a refreshing snack all by itself. It is in the lemonade and squeezed into the water for a refreshing drink in the high heat. Lemon, in Turkey, can fix anything.
Outdoor cafes under the canopy of lemon trees lined the city streets, the tangy-sweet waft of citrus everywhere. Women gathered under the lemon trees in the cafes, in the parks, and in their backyard, told their stories, shared their heartaches, and celebrated life's happy moments.
To me, the lemon tree has always symbolized a life lived fully and celebrated in full color. It gives a taste to my life that is beyond words. It means women gathered in friendship under the sunny scent of lemons. It smells like our stories, our lives shared in words, remembering, forgetting, lamenting, celebrating, and loving.
Living for many years in Fargo, ND, I longed for lemon trees. When we finally moved to Florida, all I could think of was having my very own lemon tree.
And now, I finally do. I have a lemon tree. A baby one, but so appropriate for the new life we started in Florida.
It was only natural that this space be known as the Lemon Tree - a place where my village of women will gather and share their stories and watch the lemon tree grow alongside me as our lives unfurl.
If you are longing for a place to be surrounded by women and tell your stories, I invite you to step in, stay a minute and tell me what you want me to know!