Wine Imitating Life

Every now and then, a thought crosses my mind… “Maybe, at some point, I should get back to writing about wine.” That is after all, what this blog is (loosely) based on.

The trouble is, when I consider writing about wine, two very significant issues arise.

1) I remember that I know nothing at all about wine.

2) In light of that, I reflect once again on why I call this a wine blog.

And here it is — This blog is about wine. It’s about wine imitating life. It is about the things in life that wine represents: family, friends, history, culture, beauty, food, pleasure. Wine is a vehicle through which we share stories, break bread, celebrate, commiserate, debate, and appreciate, and this is what most interests me to explore in writing.

So, I can say that this blog is about wine, because in a way, it is. It is about the life behind the wine; the thoughts darker than a full-bodied red; the world bigger than a Super Tuscan; the moments, big and small, that are all worth a toast.

I can explain it better. A few months ago, I was sitting at my dining room table when my mother wished aloud that she could remember more about her childhood. That got me wondering: where do the stories go when no one knows them anymore? When they have ceased to exist in our conscious memory? At first, I was inclined to think that they simply disappear, but that answer proved too uninspired and dismissive for my contentment.

Because, there is this richness that surrounds us, a pervading energy that we cannot know or explain, but we feel it. This is where I believe our stories live on. Snow whirling in the illumination of a street light might be the story of my father’s birth. The folds in my winter blanket hold the traditions of my great-grandmother. The buds on trees, the bubbles in champagne, the clouds that streak a sky at sunset… All of these details and moments can mean so much more, if we let them…

And why wouldn’t we?

These Magic Moments

I had a lot of time to think about my resolutions this year, yet failed to come up with anything concrete.*  (*This opening sentence could also be described as “The Story Of My Life.”).  Now that we are a week into 2012, I feel like I’ve gotten a better idea of the look and feel of the next 359 days, and I’m therefore more confident about what I want to do with them.  The end result — my resolution — is to find the magic in every day. 

The picture above illustrates what I mean, and fittingly, it was taken on the eve of 2012.  On the one hand, you see the everyday details of life – the makeup bag, the curlers, the extremely classy Miller Lite glass filled with tap water.  Just a husband and wife sitting down to dinner.  And yet, look again.  The tux, the wine, the crab legs I am clumsily attacking; the warmth and glow of the room, the animated faces, the anticipation of the evening ahead.  Magic. 

This year, I vow to embrace every day in the same way that I embrace wine and writing and friends and all of the other great things about being alive… Because there is magic in every moment, if I can only teach myself to take that second look.

The Genuine Article

Today I read an article about a scandal in the art world related to the concept of authenticity (read it yourself here).  My initial reaction was to think that it had all the makings of a fantastic novel – Thomas Crown Affair meets Sherlock Holmes.  I entertained visions of shifty exchanges in dark alleys, lavish lifestyles supported by false pretenses, private jets transporting forged masterpieces and an unfortunate collector swirling his brandy in front of his most recent acquisition.  It was all very Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan to me, until I considered a deeper layer of meaning.

As a writer (well, and also as a human), I should think more often than I do about individuality.  So much of life is spent following trends or imitating so as to profit personally in some sort of way, be it financially, politically or socially.  More than that — I have always believed in the interconnectedness of life, that every new thing is influenced by what is around it or what came before it.  For those reasons, I assume that ingenuity is rare, but at the same time I sense that it is all around me if I only make an effort to see it.  It shows itself when an individual stays true to his or her interpretation of the world.

Getting back to the story at hand — I struggle to pass judgment on what is worse: imitating the masters and passing your work off as theirs, or stealing the design and passing it off as your own.  At times I’d say most of us are at risk of one or the other, when we lose sight of our own self-worth.  I value all of the people in my life whose actions or qualities assure me that originality is alive and kicking.

— Bridget

A Toast to Uncle Dutch

It is only fitting that Uncle Dutch makes an appearance here… Dutch Henry was my great-uncle, but we first became acquainted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, in the archives, where old photographs of baseball players live on forever. This was back in the good old days when a “family vacation” meant hours of sweating and melting crayons in the way-back of the powder blue station wagon, followed by an exorbitant amount of time spent on a remote Middle America campground, which of course led to terrifying encounters with wildlife, questionable plumbing, and neighbors with mullets and country music collections. Even back then, Uncle Dutch could sense my eagerness to see other worlds.

He followed me back home to Ohio, where he weathered the storm of my prepubescence, glancing over my shoulder as I scribbled furiously in wire-bound notebooks, writing cheap Little House on the Prairie knockoffs and fan letters to New Kids on the Block. He watched me through the dark days of high school when men’s corduroys and flannels seemed like perfectly good wardrobe choices, especially if accessorized with a seat in a coffeehouse. When I got my first boyfriend, he shook his head in dismay, shrugged his shoulders, and suggested that I might be better off focusing on college applications and straight A’s. He was in the first box that I packed to Baltimore.

There he is, in my college dorm room, enjoying prime real estate in the common area, beside a poster of France, a Kandinsky print, and a life-size cardboard cutout of Ricky Martin. The girls took to him naturally, toasting him regularly, and including him in the background of big-night-out pictures, when tube tops and black pants reigned supreme. The year I studied abroad, he tipped his hat to Customs and joined me in a cobblestoned Belgian town.

After graduation, Uncle Dutch felt the same unrest as I did about the prospects of a life without structure. Following a brief free fall, we headed to Michigan, using the pretense of a budding relationship. Uncle Dutch knew, even if I didn’t at the time, that this was a step away from my childhood, into the life of a grown-up, and the lesson was not one of love but of self-reliance and freedom.

A few years later, when Uncle Dutch saw the sparkle on the cityscape of Chicago, he knew we were finally getting somewhere. Did he imagine my initiation into Corporate America, my handsome Irish husband, my new fondness for sushi and my adorable puppy? Did he know all along that life is an evolution? Or did he feel us coming full-circle — to a place that holds terrifying encounters with wildlife, questionable plumbing, and neighbors with mullets and country music collections?

Whatever he may have known then, and still know now, and keep secret, here’s to you, Uncle Dutch, and to a life of new beginnings.

— Bridget

The Written World

For as long as I can remember, I have loved books.  As a child, I hoarded them in my room, from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Anne of Green Gables to my brothers’ old Choose-Your-Own-Adventures.  In grade school, I feigned illness so that I was sent to my aunt Francie’s house, where I could sit in my uncle’s big comfy armchair and read from a pretty leather-bound collection by the front window.  I exchanged favorites with my cousin Eileen and raced her through Little Women to see who could finish the biggest book in the school library first.  (After a long time coming to Jesus, Neen, I can finally confess to you that I skipped twenty pages towards the end to secure my victory). 

I spent four years in college studying them, countless hours leafing through them in libraries and bookstores, and many a late night unable to put them down.  Like wine, books make the world rosier, more familiar, easier to appreciate and understand.  They are companions with whom I will spend a lifetime…

I had a father-in-law who loved books as well.  My husband would argue that he loved to buy them, and that it was my mother-in-law who actually read them.  Whatever the facts may be, the truth is that I now think of him when I think of books.  His memory is an extension of that rosy world, as are the homes he welcomed me into in Dublin and Westport – homes that were fittingly chock-full of books.

Tomorrow he will be gone four years.  As happy as I am that he is a part of my book world, we continue to miss him terribly in this one.

– Bridget

Thanks – Abridged 2011 Edition

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” 

– Ernest Hemingway

1. Parentals. As cliché as it may sound, this year family is striking that gratitude chord in me. With a move from Chicago to DC, my husband and I found that my parent’s invitation to crash in their basement for a few months was a welcome one, and at the very least an economical choice while we acclimate ourselves to the East coast. Yes, I am fast approaching 30 this February and, why yes, thank you Mom, I do like my eggs over medium. To my delight and shock this transition (read: regression) has been nothing short of lovely and I find I am in no particular rush to exit- hope you are reading Mom and Dad! So the long winded “thanks” numero uno is reserved for my p’s – love and thanks.

2. Seeing Eye Dogs. There is little more inspiring to me: I think they are one of the most special creatures on earth and while I do not need their service, I am thankful for those that do.

3. Geese honking. The sound reminds me of Maryland’s Eastern Shore in autumn – best heard on Thanksgiving morning. Two more days – can’t wait.

4. The Movie – Clueless. Perfect fodder for everyday quotes. (“That was way harsh Tai” and “Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972.”) A perfect answer to any mood.

5. Great In-laws. If I didn’t already know how lucky I am, hearing friends’ horror stories and those never-ending demonic movie representations are a helluva reminder.

6. Vest Weather. Dan calls it “vest weather” and I call it my favorite time of year: fur or fleece, puffy or shearling – yet another nod to the crisp fall that I adore.

7. Memories. They make me a little teary after that third glass of wine or make me laugh out loud (to the annoyance of fellow commuters) on the train ride to work. 

8. Trust. In attempts to make trust tangible, cherished bracelets/rings/necklaces are shared among certain friends as purveyors of trust. Warning: the aforementioned trust exchange most often (and terrifyingly) makes an appearance in shared cab rides home after several cocktails.

9. Hobo Joe. A comforting character I encompass when at my most base: warmth is found in an oversized sweater and you might as well abandon that glass – your wine is best swigged from the paper bag it came in. Mr. Joe is best assumed on cold, rainy afternoons.

10. Wine. And Cheese.

Happy Thanksgiving


The Calm Before The Storm

The house is quiet.  And partially clean.  Laundry is on and the shopping list is, well, a work in progress.  Thanksgiving is almost (but not quite) here.  Before it arrives, wielding a 20-pound turkey that I will somehow manage to cook, I thought I’d take a quick pause for some much-needed reflection.

Everyone is always thankful for the same old things – loved ones, health, happiness, etc.  That’s because these are the things that have been on humanity’s list since the dawn of time.  While I am of course thankful for the old standards, rather than restate the obvious, I’m going to take a different approach.

Top Ten Things I Am Thankful For That Usually Don’t Make The List

10)  Garlic.  OK, maybe not exclusively garlic, but it’s representative of cooking, and truly, is there anything better than the smell of garlic and onions in a pot at the start of a great recipe?  The answer is no.  There is not.

9)  Fall.  Specifically, leaves crunching, comfy sweaters, hot drinks and football.

8)  My Dog.  To be exact, the way he plays at the dog park and wags his tail in his sleep.

7)  Nostalgia, as illustrated in the shoeboxes full of pictures that I keep from “the olden days.”

6)  Predictability in the form of romantic comedies I have seen a million times but continue to watch time and again all the same.

5)  Anticipation of a party, a present, or a reunion with a friend.

4)  The fact that I get to visit Ireland and the above picture regularly.

3)  Laughing so hard you can’t speak.

2)  Having dreams – yes, even as a grown-up.

1)  And of course wine.  (It had to be said).

What (almost) makes your list?

— Bridget