Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

Growing up in the house of a hard working, doing the best she can, but getting no financial help, single mother made holidays a bit…prickly. There were birthdays that were never brought up, not because she didn’t want us to celebrate, (we were poor not Jehovah) but because there was no extra money to spend on gifts, parties or cakes. Christmas was the most uncomfortable, I was born in love with the commercial idea of Christmas, (was not raised in a religious house) the lights, the gift wrap, the music, the specials on television and the idea of a jolly white bearded man flying all over the world to deliver gifts. It was never the getting of stuff, I never even really thought about getting stuff, but I found the whole thing so enchanting…my mother, well she did not. To her it was just one more reminder of the things she could not give us, it made her feel terrible and it showed. I did my best to contain my excitement around Christmas, even as I kid I understood her plight and how it pained her….never once wanted to make her feel worse.

There was however one holiday that she loved, a holiday we could celebrate as everyone else did, go all traditional and the one time of the year my mother didn’t feel like she was failing us in some way. That holiday was Thanksgiving and when I was little the one thing I would site that I was the most thankful for was, “Mom is happy today”. The last time I saw my mother we had all, gotten together to celebrate her 55th birthday at her favorite restaurant in Long Beach. She looked so happy, grandchildren around her, her favorite cut of prime rib in front of her, her now adult children, (my baby sister had just turned 18 a few days before) taking her out to dinner, she was beaming.

Three days later after returning home from a dinner with her cousin she suffered some shortness of breath while changing into her nightgown, she called 911 and an hour later I got a phone call….she was gone. A blood clot ended her life, a blood clot to her heart, always found some irony in that, her heart was the one thing she always had, it was full of love, pride and hope for her children, the hope that their lives would turn out better than hers. She gave us her heart, it was all she had to give really, and for that I am eternally grateful….to her and to how her rich heart made me strong, made me a fighter and taught me to appreciate the thought in even the tiniest of gestures. No gift wrap, no parties and no amount of birthday cake can compare to the gifts she bestowed upon me. I never got the chance to tell her that, I ran out of time….I can only hope that I made her proud, that I continue to make her proud and the legacy of her full heart will show in the strength and happiness of her daughters.

I think of my mother often but never as much as around Thanksgiving, her happy time. I find that my own heart feels richer, fuller and more tuned in to the things that matter, around Thanksgiving. This is a reflective time for me, a time of happy childhood memories around a table packed with olives, sweet pickles, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, (she always brushed her dinner rolls with butter and dusted them with sugar before baking, hated them as a kid, make them that way now) bright green sweet peas, raisin studded, buttery stuffing and a golden brown bird…my mother laughing, I remember very little of my childhood, Thanksgiving I always remember. I never want to, “run out of time” again…I want those that I love to know that I love them, I want to be truly grateful for each thing that touches me, changes me and adds to this person that I am. It may be a silly holiday gesture but for me…it means the world to gives thanks.

I am thankful for:

My Son Jeremy, without his entrance into my life I have no idea how far down that slippery slope I would have fallen. Being his mother made me a better person, knowing him makes me a better person and raising such an astonishingly magnificent young man makes me as proud as I have ever been.

My Husband, poor bastard…being married to me is no cake walk I assure you, his patience and understanding of what I need to feel truly happy is unsurpassed. His ability to make me feel safe, really safe in my own skin is unlike anything I had known before him.

My Sister, her laugh simply kills me, don’t even need to know the source of the laughter, just hearing her giggle sends serious shots of happiness to my heart. Her perseverance and dedication to her education, her husband, her puppies…all make me swell with pride, make me think of mom and make me hope that she too knows how much I love her and how grateful I am to have her.

Randy Kemner, my boss and mentor, the man that brought wine into my life, swung the door wide open and urged me to find my palate, my passion and my words to express both. The man that soothed my insecurities, pushed me and changed the way I think about my place or worth, the first man that was ever genuinely proud of me and it shows…all the time. I have bled, cried and poured sweat for Randy and I would do it again in a heartbeat, his love means the world to me and his gift of wine and food will be with me forever.

Michael Sullivan, the man that opened the world to me, showed me France, drove me around the Eiffel Tower….at midnight no less, the wet Paris streets, the trip to France that forever changed me, that last night as I looked from the twinkly lights on the tower back to Michael Sullivan, the way his face bore the wisdom of a teacher, the way it showed me he was willing to teach me…the way he never stopped teaching me. Michael has supported my wine education and pushed me to write like no one ever has…I long to make him proud and always let him know how much his gift has meant to me.

My Girls, (Amy, Merzie and Sonya) three women that can find beauty in me even in my ugliest times, women that love me for everything I am, women that trust me with their hearts and for whom I would walk through fire. Friendship as sound and as strong as we have is a very rare gift and one I have never once taken lightly.

Benito, the first person to really pay attention to this silly blog, my first loyal reader, (that didn’t already know me) that went out of his way to help and encourage me.

Ron Washam, a man that selflessly goes out of his way to make me feel truly adored, makes me feel beautiful, (no easy feat) and encourages me through is adoration and support. He makes me laugh, he makes me blush and he makes me proud to know him, proud that he wants to know me. As smart and funny a writer as I have ever met and I am honored that he reads and loves me.

Red Burgundy, for teaching me that wine can indeed make love to you, seduce you and haunt you.

John Kelly, for making me laugh, standing up for me and letting me close to his life…I am always thinking of you.

Champagne, a wine that stole my heart, honed my palate and my passion for it got me lots of admirers and enormous respect..something I yearned for and now pushes me to learn more.
All Of My Readers, you all push me to write, something I have discovered that I love doing, you encourage me, drive me and make me want to share myself, my stories and my rants with all of you…I cherish what you have all given me.

French Fries, as perfect a food as there ever was.

Didier Dagueneau, for showing the world that Sauvignon Blanc, in the right hands, can be a very serious wine. That and for breaking my bawls which knocked some of the shy right off me. You are greatly missed.

Dale Kemner, a woman whose smile melts my heart, a woman whose strength is inspiring and a woman whose adoration means the world to me. The meals, the example you have set, these are things that drive me, make me want to make you proud, one of those smiles and I know you are.

Dave Matthews, for showing me that smart is sexy as hell.

The Wine Country, without it I would never have had much of this list….without it I would have never been me.

Mom, forever thankful.


Tessa said...

Awe Sam! What a lovely post. You made me well a lil. You had it so much harder than I did with the birthdays/holidays. Good thing, since I am much more selfish (GIMME PRESENTS) Plus., I had you and mom both. I love you and I am thankful for you as well (and french fries)

Samantha Dugan said...

Well I have always been good at making my lil' sister cry! Just so you know, I love you with all of my heart and am very proud of the woman you have become. Awe, bring me some puppy lovin'!

Amy said...

Your post made me so glad to be a part of your life. Holidays, for me too, are hard. I miss my Mom and the way things "used to be." Enjoy your holiday with Jeremy and Carlo. Miss you all.

Nancy Deprez said...

Wow, what a great post and a touching one. I love your list of things and people whom you are thankful for. And your story about your mom who I am sure was such a beautiful person. (I am sure because of what I see in you and Tessa.)

Benito said...


I'm humbled to be in such esteemed company. It has been an extraordinary pleasure to get to know you over the past year, even if it's just through comments and e-mails.

And one of these days I'll finally follow your advice and start drinking proper Champagne. :)

Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving,

Samantha Dugan said...

And I will forever be grateful you are in mine. I love and miss you very much.

You are a dear man and I will make you a Champagne lover yet!

Thank you my dear friend and after seeing your name I flashed on the fact that I should have included you for making me start this silly blog! Thank you for your continued support and wonderful friendship, and for reminding me that I forgot to inclue You, Thomas, (for his praise and understanding)Jess, (for visiting me and making me feel like a million bucks) and Michael Hughes, (for being my twin, for sharing my love and for his friendship).

Tessa said...

Come to think of it, I am pretty great. :P Just remember it was YOU and mom that raised me; and without you, after mom uh..went on vaction?...I would not have become who I am.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It is you that all of us have to thank. This blogging crap would all have turned out to be meaningless for me if I hadn't met you as a result of cranking out HoseMaster of Wine garbage.

If I give you one small measure of laughter and love and happiness, then I am grateful. But, Love, that measure is returned by you a thousandfold.

Happy Thanksgiving, Gorgeous

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

PS--Remember when I used to leave funny comments? Now it's all mushy and stuff.

The Woo said...

Well Sam, you've done it now. You made a cold hearted SOB GOPer from the OC get all teary eyed. WASSUPWIDAT? What is this salty discharge from my eyes? I guess the tin man does have a heart.

I have to tell you how much I can relate to you childhood. I too was raised by a remarkable woman who was a single mom with two highly rambunctious boys to raise, feed and clothe. We were poor. Seriously poor. What I call "no food in the fridge" poor. But I never saw my mother shed a single tear and there was always love in our home.

I often wonder how these strong, wonderful women have the gumption and wherewithal to accomplish so much with so little? Clearly, your mother was of this vein... and I know from watching Jeremy turn into the fine young man that he is, that you are as well. Your mother's heart would be completely filled with pride in seeing how great a job you've done with Jeremy.

What better legacy can she have than that?

Great post. Well done.

Michael Hughes said...

Sam, your post is very heartfelt & honest. You are a very lucky woman to have so many wonderful people in your life. I imagine that helps a lot during this time of year. I can feel the love!

vickibarkley said...

So, I was cranky about working today, feeling persecuted because I'm contributing a couple of things to the family Thanksgiving party, annoyed that my wife is breathing...
and then I read this.
Thank you for the reality check and inspiration. I'm lucky to know you.
I need to go give someone a kiss!

Samantha Dugan said...

I know that one of the greatest things to come out of this blog was stumbling on to the HoseMaster of Wine, laughing my ass off and working up the nerve to leave a comment, (I was sure you were going to bite my head off)...meeting you has been an odd but wonderful gift. I adore you Love.

Thanks darlin. I feel the love too.

Awe, so sweet, I did not know GOPers cried. I didn't know that about your mom, she must be very proud of you pal, you sir have come a very long way...her legacy too. Your kind words about Jeremy melted my heart...thank you so much.

And I am lucky to know you as well.

Jessica said...

Thanks for the cry... and for letting me into the fold and befriending me when I'm away from home! Hope you and Callo have a FANTASTIC thanksgiving and enjoy your time with Jeremy!

Now, can we have a seriously funny post tomorrow so I can experience the full range of emotions the holidays always bring? :-)

Thomas said...


That was a fabulous essay. Oh, that voice of yours!

We share yet another thing: French fry idolatry.

Samantha Dugan said...

Have to admit, made myself tear up a lil too. It has been a great pleasure getting to know you and I look forward to many more visits.

Thank you, and I didn't even use ONE bad word! Dude, fries are the best. Thank you as always...

Merzie said...

What a touching post. I like when you talk about your mother. She sounds like such a strong, kind woman and she raised such amazing, inspiring daughters. I wish I could have know her.

You are an inspiration and I am a better person because of you.

Love you,

P.S. remember that clear, crispy fry we stole from Evan at Tracy's? That was delicious.

Samantha Dugan said...

My beloved girl I wish you could have known my mom, she wan NOT really strong, kind of sad really but there was something in her hatred of her own weakness that taught Tessa and I what we never wanted, what she did not want for us. There was a clarity to her sadness, it was open, exposed and in her sharing that with us she made us better people, stronger women a gift that I wear every day and never, ever forget or take for granted. You my sweet girl have a strength that is even more powerful...your power is unquestionable but you also ooze a sweet heart, a giving nature and I learn and am reminded, every day that I know you how remarkable a woman you are. I love you Merzie and not a day goes by that I am not proud to be your friend.