Limoncello - Paint Swatch Contest Winner

Limoncello - Paint Swatch Contest Winner

🕔Dec 04, 2018

In my kitchen is an apron with a recipe for limoncello on it. Organic lemons, white sugar, water, and pure grain alcohol. After peeling and stirring, and days of sitting, limoncello comes out, opaque and pale yellow. It is strong, lemony and delightful, the raki/ouzo/grappa of Southern Italy. Drink this in the land of lemons and oranges, Vesuvius and Pompeii, Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

I was there for one week once, in Massa Lubrense, in an apartment looking out over the Mediterranean, past a giant lemon we kept on the railing. Every morning we saw Capri and the boats trailing white wakes towards it. Every evening we were impressed by the sunset. Every night we heard bats and owls—night hunters—signalling and then diving down the hill. The road to our house was all switchbacks, and each car honked at the corners. We sat on the deck sipping limoncello, listening to the quiet hunters and the friendly cars.

I have MS, and someone keeps moving the goalposts on me. I just get used to things and then they get worse. I can button my shirt and then I can’t. I can tie my shoes and then no. I can read but then I need an e-book. I could get dressed in the morning. I could walk up the stairs. I have used them all—the cane, the walker, the manual wheelchair, and finally, the motorized one.

It’s like I live the tragedy over and over. But it can’t be tragic, because if I let tragedy get a foothold, I can’t bear to think about where it will go, so I don’t let it in. This is not heroism. Everyone does this.

How do I feel? I don’t know. I know it will get worse, and I am resigned to that.

I was using a manual wheelchair on that trip. I was mostly stuck in the apartment, feeling the slow warmth of the alcohol. At the best times, I forgot about things being difficult and let my mind wander. Limoncello was a holiday door opened away from my boring repetitive world.

Through that door I saw a wholly different landscape where I might wear different clothes, where the sun shone hot on umbrella pines, as though the lemon alcohol was entirely other than what I was used to, because it was based in curly yellow peelings on the other side of the world. I imagined myself in a convertible on treacherous and beautiful coastal roads. I wore sunglasses, and a scarf to protect me from the wind that would mess up my hair. Yellow peels.

I was able bodied once. I played tennis and I remember the feeling under the lights on a summer night. I remember playing with friends on a bright dry day. I remember the particularly Canadian experience under the bubble in winter, hitting the wall with my racket to dislodge the frost. I remember winning a match by sheer will. I remember, I remember. All those memories add up to something. Maybe, like those lemon peelings, I can mix them with water and sugar and grain alcohol and time, to make something I can use, a new door to replace opening a new can of balls and absorbing the smell.

When I went to Europe, in 2009, I could walk a bit with support or use a cane. I could haul myself up a flight of stairs, using the railing. What possibilities I had! I couldn’t see them then. If I had known, maybe I would have lingered there.

In Southern Italy, my partner and our daughter pushed me in the manual wheelchair most places. In Massa Lubrense, looking across the Mediterranean at Capri, I was trapped. We couldn’t walk anywhere with the wheelchair on those narrow scary roads. There were spectacular hikes marked by Roman-era signs but I couldn’t go there. No one would assist me getting into a small boat. Ha! Trapped.

We found a wheelchair accessible ferry across to Capri, with its pants and famous lagoon. The white wake would be ours. Turns out Capri is just one steep mountain, ascended with the help of the world’s slowest stair lift.

When I think about that time, I dream I am a swooping bat, diving with my wings pressed close to my body, ignoring the friendly horns.

Following yellow sonar.

Emma Kivisild is a writer and artist living in Prince Rupert BC. She published three books with Press Gang Publishers, emceed the Vancouver Folk Music Festival for seven years, and is now active with Complete Streets Prince Rupert. She lives with the painter Suzo Hickey.