When I write about wine, it is often with the staggered view from a meaningful relationship. We were in love. We broke up a few times. Then met again, had a good time at a party. We got back together. But I’m not sure that we’re meant to be.
Late on a cold afternoon, the kids and I return to the apartment. It’s the second day after the end of Daylight Saving Time, and the sky is already a delicate darkness. My son flips on the main light, revealing breakfast leftovers still on the table. The afternoon has been long: school, gymnastics, playground, sushi dinner. They run to put on pajamas in exchange for a promised dessert from their dwindling stash of Halloween candy. The evening appears endless. Alone in the kitchen, I approach the wine fridge. You again.
A cold glass of white wine would take the edge off a frustrating day and get me through the next couple of hours of homework, iPad supervision, disputed countdowns to bedtime. It would lessen the likelihood of my screaming for them to brush their teeth. I have heard this from other mothers with small children: drinking makes me a nicer mother. It’s hard to argue with something that works.
But I like to wait. The moment I look forward to is pouring a glass after the kids are in bed. I check on them, and return to my laptop to work, cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc at my side. I write, stop to pour another glass, go back to writing. Having a husband who works late, wine is a giddy and reliable companion. It fills the loneliness, the boring hours, and even conceals the terror of a blank screen.
Tonight I grab a Diet Coke from the wine fridge. I examine this love affair of mine from time to time. During Superstorm Sandy, when we lived in hotels for two weeks watching helplessly as our neighbors suffered greatly, it was easy to face my fears and sorrows with wine; more recently, I was embarrassed by the number of bottles left in the recycling at our vacation house. Still, in our quiet apartment at the end of a draining day, when there is silence and time for worry and obsession—wine is a preferred comfort. With wine, I feel a familiar bravery about life’s challenges, and the thoughts come and move about without judgment or impulse. With wine, I am a handler.
The problem is that in life, I am not. I am bruised easily by the events of the world, rattled by the chaos in my home, immobilized by my doubts. Caring for three young children, always, is infused with a mix of agitation, fierce affection, and unimaginable fear of what is beyond my control–their ability to make friends, do well at school, thrive when I am not with them. Two (or three) glasses of wine over several hours at night takes the edge off the panic. I never get drunk either. But since the summer, an exquisite kind of guilt steals in, after a night with even a little wine: this relationship may not be the best for me.
One Sunday morning this fall, my 6-year-old and I were reading books. She read Creepy Carrots, and I read Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. She put her book down and sat close to me, reading the page I was reading. I helped her sound out: “…I could see the possibility of a life in which I would be defined not by who I was but by what went from a bottle into a glass and then into my mouth.”
She asked what the author was talking about.
“Alcohol,” I said.
“Do you love that author?” She asked.
“I have two authors I am falling in love with: Joy Cowley and Peter Brown.”
I picked up my coffee, re-read the page, thinking, once again, how many of my favorite women writers had, at some point, stopped drinking. The universe, my first grader had stumbled upon, is stubbornly ambiguous. As with relationships, we are always looking for something to guide us clearly: a sign? A lesson?
New Year’s promises are daunting and useless to me. My relationship with wine won’t be part of a resolution. Once, I misguidedly resolved not to curse. I won’t make that mistake again—not with cursing and not with drinking. If there is drinking this year, let there be less. I hope for a prevalence of peace in the world, revelry with my family, clarity within my mind. Of these, let there be so much more.
For more of Wendy Bradford, visit her blog, Mama One To Three at mamaonetothree.com.