It’s kind of funny what people think it’s okay to ask you. I guess in the New Century of There Is No Privacy, strangers think it’s appropriate to respond to, “I don’t drink” with “Are you an alcoholic?” Geez. The reason I don’t drink is neither for health nor moral reasons. Alcohol just started giving me headaches whenever I drank it. Though for a time, I’d occasionally put something in my coffee on a winter’s eve, it wasn’t really a big sacrifice just to stop drinking. I don’t have a bad history with drinking–I mean, I went away to college, of course I have bar stories–and I’ve seen alcohol abuse destroy or at least temporarily hijack some lives, but it’s something I rarely have a reason to think about.
I didn’t grow up in one of those 1960s TV homes where Mom and Dad had cocktails in the evenings, with shakers and jiggers and strainers and ice buckets and shot glasses. My parents both drank beer, especially after they worked hard in the yard. I’ve heard that when my father was with the guys, he could throw a few back, but I never saw that side of him. I did see my mother get a little buzzed from time to time, but she could do that after one drink, and I suspect most of her buzz was put on so she could be the life of the party. She LOVED that. She had some beautiful crystal decanters–filled with colored water. I think that was a 60s thing, too.
Then there’s wine. Wine connoisseurs should just stop here, because I’m about to recount what will be, for you, tales of the bottom shelf, or as one online sommelier said, “the scariest wines ever.”
I love grapes. Don’t these look all dewy and tasty?
And I remember, from my youth, eating Muscadines right off the vine. I think my parents and some of their friends and maybe my uncle even tried to ferment their own Muscadine wine. That could be one of those stories I’ve invented; I don’t know. But I do remember the first time I tasted wine.
My Uncle Gerald occasionally had a glass of Mogen David. I adored him, and I’d never seen wine before, so I asked if I could taste it. I have no idea what age I was–maybe twelve? He exchanged a glance with my mother, handed me his glass, and I took a sip. Of course, I loved it. It’s a very sweet dessert wine and my palate was geared toward Kool-Aid. From then on, I was always allowed one sip from his glass on the rare occasion that he poured one.
Here’s Uncle Gerald, sans wine but with a cigarette. I actually remember what he smoked: Kent. And I remember their jingle, part of which is: Happiness is the taste of Kent–great taste, fine tobacco–that’s what happiness is. Huh. Maybe they were right to take those ads off the air because of us impressionable children.
The next wine I drank was Lynne’s fault. She got a wine bottle from her cousin that had been autographed by teen idol Mark Lindsay. The wine was Mateus Rosé, and she talked her parents into buying a bottle for us. The taste was vile to this Kool-Aid drinker. Of course, I pretended I loved it. Peer pressure at its finest!
Then it was prom time, Boone’s Farm. etc. etc. Everyone of a certain age (35) has memories of Annie Green Springs and Strawberry Hill.
For a time, my parents bought a wine that was white and very sweet. It’s possible it was Manischewitz Cream White Concord. It was their “we’re having people over” wine.
Then came the 1980s and the onslaught of the blush wines. We’re not holding wine here–I’m sure that’s apple juice!–but Kathy and I were known to have a glass of White Zinfandel after a day at work. Or a day at whatever.
Does this photo look all blurry to you? Probably whoever took it was drinking apple juice, too.