New Rule: Expect it to take 2-3 days longer than usual to accomplish the most basic tasks … like scooping the cat box. Seriously. Put it on the to-do list Tuesday, get it done Friday.
The other day I went to see a customer. Strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn, my kid, J, now 20 pounds, roughly the weight of half a case, kicked his feet against my quads as I lugged my wine bag up the stairs. My left knee rebelled. It does that regularly now, pregnancy having taken five years off my leg-life. It’s ok. They were bound to give out at some point, and J’s worth a little knee pain. He’s a peach.
“That must be hard” my customer commented as I hoisted the bag up onto a stool in order to reach inside without bending over. I immediately thought of an afternoon in the summer of 2017. It was about a million degrees out, which means a million and ten inside the subway station. I was waiting for the downtown 6 train at Union Square with 9 open bottles. Every article of clothing was soaked with sweat. “Honestly” I told her “repping in New York was so physically hard, that this doesn’t feel so bad.”
We began to taste. Every so often I’d notice that she was making google-y eyes at J, who’d occasionally try to grab my glass. Accessing the spittoon without spitting on J’s head required minor neck acrobatics.
That day I felt out of practice, my brain a little rusty. Descriptors and factoids, normally at my beck and call, are buried a little deeper than usual these days. Fortunately we’d just had a zoom meeting with Alberto from Marziano Abbona, and so I had some material on the estate at the ready. “Garombello” is a vin de soif style Nebbiolo. Even with a relatively short maceration, no oak, and exuberant, floral aromas, it’s still quite structured. I’ve loved reconnecting with this producer after many years.
By the end of the tasting, J was beginning to fuss in spite of the constant bouncing and swaying that become second nature to every parent trying to keep a baby entertained as they hold an adult conversation.
Between J’s birth and the pandemic, my life has changed dramatically since January. It’s as though I’m in the midst of a slow yet radical transformation.
Here’s what life is like now: I wake up at 6am. I feed J, then make lunch for papa. Sometimes I snatch a few minutes to binge-read The New York Times. The news is usually bad, so it’s probably better for my mental health when I don’t get those few minutes. Long gone are the leisurely mornings with a book. Then I clean the kitchen and check my email while J bounces and giggles. I often sing to him at the same time: Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin, Gershwin, The Beatles. You should definitely never hear my baby adaptation of “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof. I sip some coffee, which has overtaken wine as my favorite beverage. Coffee and wine were always battling for the title. Coffee won definitively when I began to get 70% of the sleep I require to function well. Obviously I still love wine, but I need uppers more than downers these days.
Speaking of wine and coffee, both taste better than they did while I was pregnant. This dawned on me sipping 2018 Division-Villages Gamay Rosé. It was a balmy evening in January, the day my in-laws left after a week long visit. They’d come shortly after J was born to help us. Both baby and papa were asleep. The house was quiet for the first time in awhile. I sat outside on our back porch watching an anemic winter sunset, looking out at the leafless trees. The wine was fresh, zesty, and silken, like strawberries and cream. I’ve tasted this wine many times, and there was no pressure to dissect its numerous charms. I just drank and relished every sip.
After the coffee injection, and my first round of “housewife” duties, J gets drowsy, and I get exercise: rowing, running up and down the driveway if my legs allow it. I do what I can, and it’s enough to keep me sane. I almost always listen to The Rachel Maddow Show, which does nothing for my overall state of mind, but she’s a fantastic journalist I’ve no plans to give up the habit.
The day descends into chaos around 10am when J wakes up, and emails begin to roll in. Working with J is a constant juggling act. There are usually at minimum three balls in the air: baby, emails, household tasks. It’s a level of multitasking that calls to mind my busiest evenings as a line cook. The pandemic has curtailed business enough that I can usually keep the balls in the air. This is a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But if we were doing a normal level of business, the balls would definitely be on the floor.
When I say “emails” and “work”, I’m not just referring to my job. The future is incredibly uncertain right now. My family is moving to Saxapahaw next year where we can live cheaply, and grow our own food. I have a lot of work to do to make the house habitable. Every day, it seems, there are emails pertaining to this project. Yes, my parents’ house is, once again, towering over my daily life like the ghosts of Christmas past and future rolled into one old, ramshackle albatross. Too much metaphor? Certainly. A therapist could dissect my ambivalence about moving back to my childhood home after 20 years, but therapy isn’t a luxury I can afford right now.
Between 10am when the juggling begins, and 4pm when papa gets home from work, the game plan is always the same: keep J entertained while getting shit done and not losing my mind. Some days I run deliveries; others I run samples to accounts. I’ve had a few tastings, and I always enjoy them because, even with J along and wearing a mask, I feel like my old self.
For the most part wine occupies the same space it used to: a thing of beauty that brings delicious respite at the end of the day. This bottle of Ruppert-Leroy Martin Fontaine was incredible. The wine took me to my spiritual homes in France: Champagne and the Jura. Perhaps only Martin Fontaine could so clearly evoke both places. Naturally made, cool climate, oxidative Chardonnay grown on limestone is a particular flavor. My old life was so close and palpable as I sipped the wine that I could think of nothing else.
I wish I could say that relief comes when papa gets home, but it doesn’t. He needs at least an hour to clean the grime off and decompress. Relief comes around 5. I open my computer and tend to more emails and orders. We’ve slipped into the habit of watching tv together in the evening. It’s not ideal, but it’s the easiest way to relax. Right now we’re watching a show called “Burn Notice”. J likes it. There are lots of explosions. We were good cooks before J was born, and we’re even better now. One of us cooks while the other watches the babe. We eat together around 9pm, after he’s asleep. I’m always starving by then, but it’s better to go hungry for a couple of hours and spend some adult time with my dude.
There are a two things I do virtually every day that bring an incredible amount of joy, moments that fill my heart with love of a texture, tenor, and quality I couldn’t have imagined before. In the morning I walk down the driveway with J in my arms to look at the cows grazing in our neighbor’s pasture. J enjoys being outside, and I learned early on that taking him out is a good way to calm him down. In the evening, I strap him to my belly and we water the garden. Summer is here and the air is heavy. The frogs and mosquitos are out, and the tomato patch has that fuzzy, geranium, tomato leaf smell. The sun is big, red, and low hanging. Somewhere nearby a redneck rides his lawnmower.
My piano has been collecting dust for months, and my pandemic short story sits, essentially unwritten but for the first five pages. I’m trying to read “Les Trois Mousquetaires” but I can barely make it through a page or two without falling asleep. Yet in some ways the catastrophes of this year have made me more the parent I want to be: a parent who straps the babe to her body and charges out into the world. It’s a version of parenthood that reminds me of my childhood: cloth diapers, carrots simmered in cast iron rather than mush out of a jar, no daycare, plants, pets, and bugs rather than endless plastic toys and metallic tunes on a screen.
You know how it is: count blessings, feel frustrated, repeat.