*This post is my entry for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #30, #MWWC30, whose theme is obscure, as described at this link. Voting at this link begins Tuesday, January 24, 2017 and goes through Monday, January 30, 2017.*
Life is a brief, small, and transitory phenomenon in an obscure corner, not at all the sort of thing that one would make a fuss about if one were not personally concerned. ~ Bertrand Russell
As I write this, my the death of my mother on January 9, 2017 is obscuring my ability to do much of anything without thinking of her. Memories of her pop into my head at the most inopportune times, bringing me to either laughter or tears, in front of coworkers, friends, strangers, and while alone. Thus, this entry for #MWWC30 (Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #30) is about her. I don’t have an outline or a plan of what I am going to write, so this is going to be stream-of-consciousness, cathartic writing.
My dad was a teetotaler and my mom wasn’t much of a drinker, either. She was raised in a neighborhood and a household where the wine of choice was Mogen David, the certified kosher producer whose wines are made primarily from Concord grapes and other fruits. My only experience with Mogen David was MD 20/20 in college, you know, Mad Dog 20/20, but I have always recalled that this brand was the wine that my mom would talk about having when she was a young adult, for holidays and special occasions.
However, as I grew into an adult, there was the side of her she shared with me a couple of times, where she let go and enjoyed wine or a wine-like beverage.
The first time I remember her drinking wine was a trip to Paris that she, my sister, and I took during the holidays as part of an organized travel group. I was 21 years old, in my final year of college. I had just completed my summer exchange program in France and was dying to return. I begged my family to go with me. My dad said no, but gave the three of us our blessing to go without him, so we did. Of course, wine was served with every lunch and dinner. One night, our travel group had dinner in a restaurant where they seated us upstairs away from the rest of the restaurant. The bottles seemed bottomless. As soon as one was emptied, another full one appeared. More wine than water and food was consumed. We drank and laughed until the wee hours of the night. As we started to leave, my mom stood up and hesitated, saying she was dizzy. This was the first time I had ever seen my mother tipsy. I also had never seen her so happy and carefree. My sister and I helped her down the stairs and continued to stumble and laugh all the way to our hotel.
A couple of years later, after a year at home trying to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I left to attend graduate school at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. My parents helped me move, but otherwise, I only saw them if I went home. However, one weekend my mom came to visit without my dad or my sister. In retrospect, I think she wanted to get away, to feel young and single again. I had this tiny, portable Sunbeam grill, so we bought food and cooked it on the grill while sitting outside of my apartment in cheap folding chairs, sipping wine coolers. This was my first adult moment with my mother. The more she drank, the more she shared, until finally she said, “Oh, I know you’ve tasted alcohol since you were in high school. I remember every time you came home after drinking.” I stopped mid drink. I insisted there was no way she knew every time. But, she did. Obscurity thwarted. She reeled off every, single time, and I mean EVERY time, with her uncanny attention to detail. I asked her why she didn’t say anything before and she said, “I knew your dad would have killed you if he ever found out.” In that one sentence, I realized how cool, cunning, and amazing my mom was. Mother and daughter became friends.
After graduate school, I moved to Virginia to teach French and Spanish at a community college. As I’ve described on my blog previously, I was not much of a wine drinker myself between my summer in France and 2008, the year of my pivotal wine moment, which eventually led me to the Napa Valley. By September of that same year, my mom was admitted to a nursing home, so there would be no more traveling, no more imbibing together. She had dementia, so while I had visited her in late 2013 and told her I was moving to California to work at a winery, I don’t think she remembered unless my sister told her. However, she often recalled our girls’ trip to Paris and our weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Now that she is gone, I am trying to focus on positive thoughts, rather than the eight years she lived in the nursing home. Heartbreak and humor continue to intermingle and intertwine in my head. She passed in her sleep and I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to her again, but I’m determined to think that she loved me and was proud of me. I will keep alive these memories of us as adult women and best friends, so that they never fade into obscurity.
My mom, she has passed.
Broken, yet my life awaits.
She’d say, “Seize it, go!”