Monday, May 13, 2013

Wine and gummy bears

“We should call,” my wife Kara said, using her wineglass to motion toward the phone in my pocket.

“Yes, we should,” I agreed, dangling my feet off the dock for another moment, squinting as the sun danced off the water.

Even though we are parents with two young children, we were finding that it is entirely possible to have a nice, relaxing weekend away from home, as long as you dump the kids off at their grandparents’ house on the way there.

“They’re probably putting the kids in bed right now.  Seriously, we should call,” Kara repeated, taking another sip.

Mustering my energy, I leaned over far enough to extract the phone from my pocket.  By that point, my liver had just about caught up on the backlog it had incurred during the day’s wine tour. 

A couple of months ago, I’d decided that my years of hanging out with friends were over, at least at venues that did not prominently feature bouncy castles.  The regular reader(s) of this column might recall that my recent night out with friends in New York City ended with a party transpiring around my prone body at 4am as I tried to sleep on the bare mattress of a hotel pull-out couch.   I’m just lucky nobody tried to use me as a bottle opener.

But on this wine tour, Kara and I actually got to relax together and reconnect with friends, something we haven’t done since around, and I’m just spitballing here, June 15, 2009, the day our first son was born and our social lives died.

The day also attempted to be educational, but I did my best not to learn anything.

“This selection was aged in a steel-lined tank, which gives it a nutty bouquet and a finish of middle-aged orangutan droppings,” the bartender would say, holding out the bottle and delivering a brief monologue before pouring a thimble-full into our glasses. 

I suppose it’s important to know about wines before you drink them, but the wine-tasting ritual seems a bit like going trick-or-treating and having the person who answers the door holding the treat in the air just above your outstretched pillowcase, telling you about the candy’s origins.

“This Three Musketeers bar was milled in a galvanized vat, which gives it a robust structure and full-bodied complexity.  You’ll also notice its rustic nose, subtle vegetal undertones and lively nougat.”

My feeling is that it’s candy, and that’s good enough for me.  You put it in the bag, I’ll make it disappear.

But this day wasn’t really about wine.  It was about seeing friends and leaving responsibilities behind, just for a little while.

At the end of the day, on the end of the dock, Kara and I excused ourselves to check in with our real lives.

“How was your day with Grandma and Grandpa?” Kara asked.

“I had chocolate pudding and vanilla ice cream with blue sprinkles and gummy bears,” Evan said, apparently not scarred by our absence.

“He also had corn-on-the-cob and meatballs!” Grandma chimed in.

“And I played Candy Land and I won twice.  I’m going to win at Candy Land forever,” he said, a bold statement by someone yet to be acquainted with his father’s cupcake-crushing Candy Land skills.

Kara and I smiled, chit-chatting with our son until our entertainment value wore off, which took about three minutes.

“Bye!” Evan said abruptly, then his footsteps pattered off until they were inaudible.

The next day, we’d pick our kids up and swing them over our heads, glad to hear their laughter, and even their shrieking, again.  Until then, though, someone needed to watch that sunset.

You can ask Mike Todd to take a long walk off a short dock at