Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear Momma

“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.

Dear Momma,
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…..

To Be Continued


Sara Louise said...

So much emotion! It amazes me how well you put emotion into your words for the reader to feel, because trust me, we feel it :-)
Looking forward to the next chapter...

Charlie Olken said...

Good morning, sunshine.

When you say, "to be continued", two things come to mind.

The first is that the piece as poignant as it is, does not quite know where it is going because it wants to chase the tale of your mother and you, but it also wants to chase the details about how you discovered that you had a palate and a way with words. I hope you will develop those details because there is so much left unsaid here. I already long for the next installment.

The second is "to be continued". You may not have known him, but old folks remember Jerry Mead, firefighter turned winewriter. His signature sign off line was " to be continued" or even "TBC" on the internet.

And the third, yes, I said two, but this is 3 for 2 Thursday so I get one free, is that the description of the Fontanel Rivesaltes is simply brilliant. I am glad I started writing years ago when there was no one who could write like that. I would not have made a living. I can taste and feel that wine through your words--and the sensation is scary.

I have long had a standard for judging the winewriting of others. If I wish I had written it, not for its research (we can all do research) but for the brilliance of its language, I get impressed.

Perhaps I lack a certain humility when it comes to my peers, but I rarely find myself saying, "Wow, I wish I had written that". When I read your description of the wine, I felt, "Wow, how the hell do I learn to write like that?".

John M. Kelly said...

Hoo boy! I guess it is that Hallmark moment again - time for the "Dear Momma" letter. So...

Dear Momma: Thanks for exposing me to art, music, books, cooking and wine - your interests became my passions. Thanks for doing your best when I was the worst kind of teen. You were a woman of your age: a smooth surface - but who knew what a turbulent place underneath. It took me decades to accept that you had a secret life inside you, and decades more to understand it. In the end my love for you was tinged with pity and exasperation - that was unkind of me. I know that inside you were angry and resentful until the last moment of your life, and I will regret until the last moment of mine that instead of being with you then I was thousands of miles away, pumping wine from barrels into a tanker truck and participating in your last rites over a crappy cell phone connection. I hope you have forgiven me, and everyone else, and found peace. Love always, John

Sam, it seems we all have complicated and confused relationships with our parents - yours more than mine for sure. Thanks for opening up once again.

Samantha Dugan said...

Happy to be felt....

Charlie My Sweet,
The to be continued does mean there will be more of our story. My life with my mother, our working at The Wine Country and me finding my passion, palate and place in this crazy business of ours. I didn't want it to be too long so I thought a few installments leading up to Mother's Day would be fitting.

I was so beaming with pride when I read your comment about the Rivesaltes. Proud that I could make you taste it and even more proud that you...YOU envied my words. I thank you love...means the world to me I assure you.

John My Dear Friend,
I was so hoping someone would do just as you did, thrilled but not at all surprised that it was you....we are so alike baby. I thought that if I started the conversation there might be others wishing to unburden themselves or even just share their Momma stories, say what they needed/wanted to here where there is always a warm heart and compassionate souls to hear it. Your letter made me cry John, has me still tearing up thinking about it. Thank you for sharing it with me, I'm honored.
Everyone's story and relationship with their parents is complex and can be complicated....mine is no more so than yours or anyone elses, just different. Thanks again for sharing your letter with me and I so wish I could be giving you a kiss on your forehead right now....

k2 said...

Winemakers say that a vine must strain and fight in the dirt to bear remarkable fruit, pushing its roots deep into the earth for the sustenance it needs to lend itself to an exceptional bounty. Your life, all the pain and all the drama you've endured, shows up as passionate, engaging words for all of us to read and through your words, we get to feel your world much like we would all share in a stunning glass of sweet, honeyed, decadent Muscat. Stunning stuff my dear.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I've said this to you privately, but I'll say it here too. I wish I were able to give a great big thank you to your Momma for the remarkable gift that she gave me--You. It is a gift I share with everyone here. Though, of course, it's really MY gift and I'm just letting everybody else think it's partly theirs.

The honesty and courage of mothers astounds me. My own mother was ruthlessly honest. After I had broken up with a longtime girlfriend my Mom asked me about her. "Oh, we're not dating any more, Mom, that's over." "That's good, Honey," she said to me, "maybe now you can find someone attractive." She was something.

One wonders if your openness of heart was inherited from her. Little doubt your courage was, your grit, your determination, your fearlessness. Your talent, on the other hand, My Love, is simply a Gift from the universe. To us.

Samantha Dugan said...

You are too sweet Kevin. Thank you so much!

Ron My Love,
Your mother sounds like one hell of a woman, wish I could have met her. You are also far too sweet. Like I always say I don't know about talent but I must be something right if I landed all of you amazing people. Sending kisses your way and I adore you.

Nancy Deprez said...

That's very sweet, Sam. I didn't know you felt this way about when you started at The Wine Country. It would have been nice to have met your mom. She sounds cool. Very giving sweet person.