I struggled my first year at The Wine Country. Tried to balance working the backroom doing shipping, (a duty that was added to my mailing list job) with the front of the store, filling in as needed stocking and working the registers. Mom was backroom only, she was doing the bookkeeping and as you can imagine juggling the books for a newly opened wine store was a full time gig. She would sit back there alone for most of the day except when I would be back there packing up cases and affixing UPS labels. Lonely to be back there listening to all the life and energy going on outside your little work station, the music, the voices, the laughter, the popping of corks for perspective buyers…I think in a way she saw my shift to the front, the adding of my voice to that cacophony of sounds that made her feel segregated, as a betrayal or abandonment. That first year had me as torn as I had ever been with regards to my already somewhat unusual relationship with Mom.
“Why are you crying?” my voice cracking, my heart racing while watching my mother break into to tears behind the wheel of the Volvo on our way to Costco. She sat silently at first, just kept driving with a face full of pain and wet with tears. I asked again terrified, (a feeling she had taught me, a feeling that was triggered by mom crying for no reason and not talking) but it would be ten minutes before she would open her mouth, what finally came out of that mouth would have me slapping on yet another piece of armor….an icy front to protect myself and her in a way. “I was watching the man in the car next to us, he couldn’t take his eyes off of you” I sat there my eyes no doubt displaying my confusion, (I had not seen the man she was talking about…almost never did) still at a loss as to why she was hurting so. “That used to be me. Men used to look at me like that” she choked through even more tears. It was me, I was making her cry, hurting her and there was nothing I could do to make it stop. I sank back in my seat, felt myself trying to shrink below the window and said all I could think of, “Mom I think you’re beautiful”
My siblings had a much different relationship with our mother, probably a slightly healthier one but one where they would rage at her, curse at her and while they undoubtedly loved her just as much as I did they were less affected by her sadness. Where they would roll their eyes and point out that it was her fault that she got a ticket for not paying her car registration, I would feel her sadness and defend her for something that was in fact her fault. Like I said, unhealthy. My reward for being her defender and protector, her feeling safe enough with me to be rather cruel at times.
“How do I look?” I asked right before heading out to my first wine dinner for The Wine Country. “If I were a man I wouldn’t touch you with someone else’s body” (cleaned up version) she snarled at me. I had been invited to the dinner, she hadn’t and she was once again angry at me. “I’d like to introduce Samantha Dugan and Eric Mohseni, two of the finest and most exciting young palates I have seen in years” Randy shouted to the full crowd at the wine dinner. He made us stand up, my face beet red and burning but Eric and I waved and nodded our heads before sitting back down. I was so grateful, not for being singled out and praised for my palate but because mom wasn’t there to hear it.
I found myself pulling away from her for the first time at the end of that first year at The Wine Country. Finding comfort tucked beneath the wings of the people there that would want to teach me, would talk wine with me for hours and took pleasure in helping me hone my palate and find my passion. I spent more and more time at the store, going in on my days off just to be near them, near the bottles that inspired me…tasting everything I could, sitting in on buyer meetings, my ears open, my nose open, scribbling volumes of tasting notes. Finding something beautiful in the purity and honesty of wine, closing my eyes with my nose buried in a glass of Riesling, letting it just be beautiful, letting it share itself with me through its explosive aromatics….losing myself and forgetting, if only for a glass long about the ever growing ugliness of the thousand square feet.
Dear Momma, I wish I could share a glass of Roland Schmitt Riesling with you. Watch the corners of your mouth turn up as you feel the vibrant, peach heavy fruit dance across your palate. Feel your eyes on me as I explain that as concentrated as this wine is, as explosive and palate coating, that the little tingle you are feeling on the sides of your tongue is the acidity and that the tangy, almost lemon like snap that has your mouth watering...wanting another sip, well that is the mark of a beautifully balanced wine. I want to pour us another glass, toast it and us for what we are.....not what we aren't. Celebrate the beauty in this one bottle and not spend one second wondering if there is one better...in that moment, you and I and that Riesling would be perfect. Yeah, I'd like that...