To avoid washing the floor last night, I drove to the store and bought orange juice. Not an entire gallon, just a single serving, with medium pulp. Given the option, I would have chosen maximum pulp, but there was none to be found. Knowing the consequences, I raised the container to my winter-chapped lips and let the bittersweet texture roll through my mouth, down my parched throat, and into my acid-loathing stomach.

You see, a number of years ago I was diagnosed with acid reflux and have had to cut back on a lot of the things I love in order to appease my volcanic digestive system. While I have not forsaken my daily breakfast of apple slices and peanut butter, I have ruefully traded my coffee for tea (which is still a no-no), switched to a lower zest salsa, and given up a lot of mint and chocolate. I have not had orange juice since I don’t know when.

Sitting in my car, I tipped back the last of the nectar, savoring every single drop. Yet, even as I licked a tiny bit of pulp from the rim, memories flooded back to the best juice I have ever tasted. Whether from the corner store carton or a vat homemade by the village women, my taste buds have never received such treat as when I was in the Dominican Republic. While mulling over juice, other memories seeped in, too; not all happy, but all worthwhile.

I remembered the feeling of homesickness that wracked me throughout the trip. I remembered my fellow missionaries laughing and dancing in an underground disco. I remembered Allende, whose unused phone number still sits creased in my Bible. And, most of all, I remembered Elena; a sweet little girl of about 5 or 6 I met in a campo (village) set a ways off from the main road.

We spent two days in the campo, with this sweet, remote group of people, painting their church and playing with their children. There we took turns running and climbing and singing and working throughout the heat of the day. I met Elena the first day and promised to play again when we came back the second. Yet, on day two Elena was nowhere to be found, so another girl graciously took us to find her.

The unmarked path before us wound through the Dominican countryside, lush with tropical foliage. Along the way we passed beautiful gullies and trees brimming with ripe limoncias. It took everything in me not to stop and stare at the world around me, but to just press on. In less than ten minutes, we reached Elena’s home. I can still picture her running out to meet us in shorts and a t-shirt, pigtails flopping with each bound.

To no avail, I tried to convince her mother that we would just be playing and getting dirty and a dress was not necessary, that Elena would be better off in her shorts and t-shirt. However, before she could come back with us, her mother made her put on a nice dress, to impress us I suppose, though I stood there in my bathing suit, tank top, and gym shorts. In fact, on the trek back home the day before, my sandals had ripped apart and now shone in the light, patched with silvery duct tape. While we waited for Elena, I surveyed my duct-tape-patched sandals, and then swept my gaze to the dirt floor, up the clay walls and eventually around the sparsely decorated room.

I remembered the thought of Elena returning home that evening, her best dress muddied and soiled, saddened me greatly, knowing how fiercely my mother would react had it been me. Looking back, I wondered at the parallel of my own universe. In my life there is a great emphasis placed on wearing the right thing for the right occasion. I get ready in the morning, put on a face to impress a makeup-less world and carefully zip up my best dress only to slide through the mud of life. Every morning consists of getting made up only to return unmade by the end of the day. Yet, what good is life if we don’t get our hands dirty? And what good are best dresses if we never wear them, afraid to soil them?

Like my acid-based diet, we have to give up so many things in life. Why do we hold back on those we can tastefully enjoy? Why not celebrate life’s little occurrences with as much pomp and circumstance as the triumphs? Maybe we should all put on our best dresses to face the day, even if we know all it will bring is a slide through the mud. Perhaps Elena and her mother had the right idea after all. It makes me want to wear my prettiest dresses for everything, even to wash the floor. You know—if I ever get around to it.