“What is that? Wine?” my snarled response to opening the refrigerator door and having an elongated bottle come lunging at me from one of those side shelves. “Yes it’s a Muscat from Paso Robles” my mother replied stuffing the obnoxious bottle back behind the mayonnaise and smoothing her over-sized shirt before strolling back to her little corner of the couch. I sensed a little uppity in her saunter. A little sass and snide in her face as she glanced back at me standing in our too tiny kitchen still trying to navigate the “what the hell?” thoughts that were racing through my brain. Wine, we had wine in our kitchen. “You don’t even drink!” my smartass retort as I tried to piece together dinner for the six of us.
Six of us living in a two bedroom apartment. My mother and my sister in one room, me and my just starting family in the other…my brother tweaked out and living on the couch. Ugly. It was all so not healthy and ugly. My mother forever feeling as if she let my brother down and therefore punishing herself, (and the rest of us) by letting this very lost and unreasonably angry, drugged out monster serve as dictator of the living room. We had a big apartment but one thousand square feet spread out amongst six people, with one of those feeling as if they were owed around seven hundred of those thousand….things were tight to say the very least.
“Sam Randy could use some help with the mailing list at The Wine Country” my mother trying to get me to step foot in one of the stupidest sounding places on the planet. “A wine store? They have wine everywhere, why would they need a whole store just for wine?” me resisting once again. My mother and I had worked together in the Long Beach harbor, we did billing for freight containers, (many of which I am sure contained wine although I never once thought about what was in those refer containers I did the billing for) me having the memory to retain all the billing code for the refrigerated containers and her more apt to work the office and manage the billing of the chassis repairs. Our little company had been swallowed up by the Long Shore Union and we were both out of work. As I spent my time desperately trying to find work in the harbor, she was spending her time at her cousin’s shop that was just opening…a wine shop.
“Ha ha are you drinking wine now?” my brother sneering at mom as she sipped away on something she brought home from her new job. “Shut up you ass!” I snapped at the couch dwelling, mood ruining troll that was making fun of the woman that was supporting his loser ass. I grabbed the bottle of wine and poured myself a long glug in solidarity. I took one sip and nearly gagged. I clinched my teeth and found enough “prove him wrong” to swallow the yellow liquid that every part of me wanted to expectorate. I searched my mother’s face, my eyebrows crinkled and moving wildly…her face, her sweet face grateful for the gesture. I swallowed and vowed to never do that again.
As much as I admired my mom’s willingness to try and be a part of the new world she was trying to shimmy herself into I just knew it was not her. That same crazy eyebrow face was the same one I saw on her time and time again as she tried to teach herself to love wine. I took a year off to try and just be a mom and let my family bring in the money. My mom working hours at her cousin’s new shop, my boyfriend working at McDonald Douglas and me being the laundry, cooking, baby raising homemaker. Nearly killed me…the silent home during the day, the no one to talk to, the having nothing to share once those that were out in the real world came home. Me and my cracked out raging sibling fighting about everything. Horrid. I had to get out, be free from that thousand square feet…needed to hear myself, feel alive and viable. Each day I spent in that nest of “woe is me” threatened to capsize me. Erase me and any chance I had of figuring out what I was meant to do.
“Randy is still looking for help with getting his newsletter out” my mom seeing that I was being swallowed and being the woman that she was…trying to help me. I walked through the swinging door at The Wine Country and I instantly felt my jaw tighten and my back go rigid. Murals on the walls, piles of wine that I had never and would never taste. People standing around spinning liquid I had deemed stupid around in glasses….burring their noses, taking notes, spitting, ridiculous. I spoke very little but intently listened as my second cousin explained how to affix address stickers and stamps to his proudly written newsletter. “Great he thinks I’m a tard” swirling around me as I took notes on how to apply a stamp.
“Sam, come here and try this” the most cringe inducing bark to meet my ears that first few months at The Wine Country. Just one day, just the right wine and the right mood and damn….my life was forever changed. Her moment never came. She sat in the back room, away from the people that might have found that right wine for her. She in her backroom and me becoming the “front of the house” at a store that she felt like was to become her space. I took it. I took that from her…to this day I am unsure how to feel about that.
“Taste this” she said as she shoved a piece of cheese in my mouth, my newly awakened palate. “I would not feed that to my dog” she said as I tried my best to not projectile the vile bit of cow’s milk goo that she had somewhat violently shoved into my face. I felt her then, felt her more than I had in years…she was pissed. Angry at me for being what she could not be. I was sorry, so sorry but finding my place for the first time ever found me straightening my spine, flaunting MY stuff, my palate…a comprehension for those piles of wine that she would never get. I wanted to tell her that there was no way for me to repay her for all that she had done for me but her rage and disappointment in what life had dealt her, her inability to be anything but jealous made that impossible.
I wish I had bought you a bottle of 1998 Domaine de Fontanel Muscat Rivesaltes, ($25.99) as amazingly complex as any sweet wine I have ever had. The dried fruit and profound nuttiness mixed with a fiercely full texture and nervy bit of acid. A wine that reminds me of Madeira but has a silkier feeling, a gentler stride and a wine that we could have talked about. Its sweetness making it palatable to you, its acid and layers of intrigue making it one of those wines that I could go on and on about…teach you. I wish I would have taken the time to teach you. This wine would have been perfect for me to try and explain complexity, point to how very much like our relationship this wine is….sweet, nutty, full, salty with a serious spike of tingly acidity.
So much I wish I would have said and shared. So much I wish you could have seen. So many wines that make me think of you still…..