It’s past July 4, and as we used to say on the farm, the corn was knee high by the fourth of July here in Upstate New York.
Getting hungover may not seem like a fond childhood memory, but it’s one of my earliest on the farm. We moved from an apartment in our small village to the family farm when I was around three years old.
Although family members all loved to eat, no one drank alcohol unless it was a beer on a hot summer day. The only time anyone served wine with dinner was at holiday feasts such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We served Mogan David wine in small glasses that Mom saved when she bought pimento spread. Do you remember those? There were no wine glasses in our cupboard. The small glasses were set on the dinner plates and filled only half full. The adults sat down and, following grace, quaffed their wine, set the glass to one side and got right to the real reason for being at the table–the food. Left-over wine in the bottle was stored in a back hall cupboard that had a gathered cloth front. There was usually most of the bottle left after a holiday meal. I don’t remember anyone ever having more than that half full tiny glass.
Soon after we moved into the farmhouse, I was exploring the back hallway, which was really more of a room than a hallway. There was a door off of it that led to my uncle’s dark room. It was off limits, not because he used it anymore, but because it had become the collect-all storage place, and Mom didn’t want me in there getting into all that junk. But she did let me play in the back hallway. In the summer, it was cool. It was right off the kitchen, connected by a door which was left open to let in breezes from two hallway windows. With the doorway in floor to the basement closed and too heavy for a child to lift, it was a safe place to let me wander around while Mom worked in the kitchen. It was an early rendition of “open concept.”
One day while I was playing back there, my curiosity drew me to that cupboard. I slid the cloth skirting aside and discovered treasures before unexplored. One of them was a bottle filled with what looked like grape juice. Why wouldn’t I think it was grape juice? My grandmother picked the wild grapes that grew along the fence line between our near pasture and the road and canned the juice late each summer. Years after she died, my mother and I found some bottles of the juice stored in the far corner of the fruit cellar. Mom poured them out without tasting them. I still wonder whether they had turned to wine or vinegar. As a kid, I loved my grandmother’s sweet purple drink. So that day, I unscrewed the top and took a sip. I remembered thinking it t tasted like Grandma’s juice only a lot stronger and a lot sweeter. Mom chose that moment to check on me and was horrified to see me chugging liquid out of that bottle. She grabbed it away from me, told me I was a bad girl and sent me upstairs to bed. To be honest, bed sounded pretty attractive because I was tired and dizzy. As I remember it I took a long, long nap that day. The story was told for years to family members and to friends. Everyone had a good laugh at how tipsy I had gotten.
As an adult I love wine, but I drink only dry wines and mostly whites. There’s something about a purple wine that makes my stomach ache a little and my head spin.
The contest for a copy of Mud Bog Murder continues. Name as many tractors as you can manufactured between 1040 and 1970. If your list is the longest, the book is yours.