Today is Valentine’s Day and I have just returned from a highlight and cut. Not because of the day but because it was the only appointment my stylist had open for quite some time and I really needed refreshing. Knowing that education is my field, the friendly stylist at the next station says, “You must know the ‘The Lemon Drop Lady,’ right? She is stopping by for a bang trim.” But no, I have not heard of The Lemon Drop Lady. I am curious to find out more and the talkative stylist obliges.
The Lemon Drop Lady was an elementary teacher, now retired and substitute teaching. She is a little woman and as cute as can be; sweet and known for always having lemon drops on hand. If a student doesn’t feel good? A lemon drop is the cure. Having a hard day? A lemon drop will make it better. Of course, students may take advantage at times, but no matter. Mrs. Lemon doesn’t turn anyone away. Sadly, Mrs. Lemon’s husband died two years ago. There was a huge turnout for his funeral, for he was almost as also well-loved as Mrs. Lemon.
I am excited to meet this fixture of our community. I can almost picture her: small floral print blouse, faded denim skirt, comfortable shoes, and gray hair in curls. And then Mrs. Lemon breezes in. “Oh, I had the class from hell today!” she exclaims all a-flurry before lighting in the salon chair and crossing her slender legs clad in camel leggings and neatly tucked into dark brown Etienne Aigner riding boots. She reviews her requirements with the stylist who then graciously introduces us. “I tell you, classes aren’t what they used to be!” she says by way of introduction and I can’t help but nod along.
We settle back into our seats, continuing to converse even though we are now separated by a mirror petition. “You know, a few years before I retired,” she shares, “the Superintendent visited our school and I told him, ‘In 46 years no one has ever stopped me from giving out my lemon drops.'” This was shortly after our board passed a health law about snacks and treats not exceeding a certain sugar and fat ratio. “I wanted him to know that no one from the district had complained before,” she lowers her voice, as if we are in cahoots. “And don’t you know! When he met with our staff at the end of the day, he ended the meeting by telling everyone, ‘I will never be the one to stop her from giving out lemon drops, by God!’ That’s what he said, ‘By God!'”
“I’ve seen a bag of lemon drops go from 79¢ to $2.49,” she continues. “One year, Brach’s called the store I was buying their lemon drops from and wanted to know why they kept selling out when none of the other stores did. The store told them about me and they gave me a free case!”
“What’s your best lemon drop story?” I ask, thinking of all the children she has encountered over the years. “Oh, there are so many,” she sighs. “You know, my last name is really Melon, but they call me Mrs. Lemon. I still run into students who are adults now and they remember. They ask me if I still make those lemon drops! You see,” she relays, “I used to tell them I made the lemon drops and Mr. Lemon sprinkled them with a special mix of powders and sugars that we gathered from our travels all over the world. When Mr. Lemon died a couple of years ago,” she confides softly, “students were afraid to, you know, ask me for them anymore. But I told them it was okay because Mr. Lemon shared his special recipe with me and now I sprinkle on the powders and sugars.”
Mrs. Lemon’s trim is complete and she wraps up our conversation. “It was so nice to meet you,” she says standing where I can now see her. I note the stylish petal pink cable knit sweater, manicured nails, and matching pink quartz earrings.
“Go home, have a glass of wine, light some candles, and take a hot bath,” my stylist tells her, knowing she will return to an empty house this Valentine’s.
“I will if you will, girlfriend,” I say and we high-five.
Mrs. Lemon schedules an appointment to touch up her highlights in a few weeks and breezes out the door as blithely as she entered.
If you know a Lemon Drop Lady, please don’t reveal the secret behind the magical powders and sugars that she gathers from her travels around the world and sprinkles lovingly over each drop. And when their sweet and sour powers spread tingles on your tongue, just close your eyes and believe.