“How did you all meet?” a question posed to me last night as I sat on the couch of a swampy feeling, crowded apartment, someone strumming a guitar as another took their turn as rock star at the microphone. My son fixing himself another Maker’s and Coke, husband tucked into a corner just away from the impromptu stage, Amy and Merritt, my two closest friends in the world at my side. Took me a second to process the question, and for once it wasn’t wine or booze that made that whole thinking business a struggle, it was just that those two women have been so deeply woven into my very fiber that it was difficult to retrace my steps and even remember a time when those threads were not a part of my colorful and multi textured fabric. “We met at The Wine Country”….
Big day yesterday for me. Worked a full shift at the shop before locking the doors and heading over to my bosses house for our semi-annual staff Grand Aioli party. Randy and Dale are two of the most generous and incredibly gracious hosts I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. They love having people over, staff, family, friends, Dale being an extraordinary cook, makes these meals that often leave or normally mouthy group speechless or omitting these series of guttural grunts and moans in unison, Randy bringing bottle after bottle of perfectly paired wine to the table. Corks popped, the clank of utensils, the laughter and grunts, the pulling out of Cognac, Calvados and Armagnac after dessert, a family meal if ever there were one and I have been lucky enough to attend many at Chez Kemner, Grand Aioli is always one of my favorites.
As I sat outside at one of the beautifully arranged tables, my thick ass tucked into one of the cushioned metal chairs, my son’s voice over my shoulder, getting more and more animated and pumped in amplitude with each glass of cool pink wine, Randy carrying on multiple conversations with those around me, always sprinkled with some comment or other that leaves the listener either laughing or shaking their head, looking through the kitchen window and watching Dale and a coworker’s wife as they loaded roasted beets, carrots, potatoes, both sweet and the real kind, (sorry, hate those sweet bastards) big bushy heads of cauliflower and crisp spears of green beans onto platters before carving into perfectly roasted chicken and hunks of medium-rare lamb, soon to be dropped off at each table with bowl after bowl of freshly made garlic mayonnaise……I felt it again, this feeling I get when I really think about all that Randy and Dale have given and shared with me, the closest thing to what I always thought having parents would be. And while I’ve kind of known Randy my whole life, what with being second cousins and all but, I really met him at The Wine Country.
“I just feel so grateful” another coworker piled on that couch in that sweaty room of music and Maker’s last night. One that was once a fiercely loyal customer of ours; came to nearly all the tastings and worked his way through the world of wine through our suggestions and teachings, one that experienced a traumatic and tragic loss not terribly long ago, one that would see our little band of “broken toys” at his side and, once retired from his real job, found him offering to return the favor…..come work with us. One that was part of the family before even coming on board but I suspect feels those same tightly woven threads even stronger now that he is on the other side of the counter. Both of us scooting over to celebrate Merritt’s birthday and Amy and Roger’s visiting from Texas, after the aioli party, both of us feeling truly grateful and, “We met at The Wine Country”
As I went on to try and explain all of this to the lovely woman that asked the “How did you all meet?” question it dawned on me, We didn’t so much meet as much as we became, because of The Wine Country. That place is more than brick and mortar, The Wine Country has had a hand in changing all our lives in ways that none of us could have possibly imagined. I now have the family I’d dreamt of, found my passion and talent, the confidence I never thought I’d possess and friendships so powerful that I know, for the first time in my life, I will never be alone….all that from a little wine shop in Signal Hill California…
Brick and mortar can be broken, my love, appreciation and dedication to that store, for all it has given me, will never be.
Thank you Randy and Dale Kemner, I love you with all of my silly heart.