“Who are you?” asks Dan incredulously. He has asked me that numerous times over the past 15 years. This time it was over wine. In my effort to be funny, I had gone overboard for what I’m sure was the very first time. Our friend, David, had visited us at Christmas and brought one of those 1.5 liter bottles of wine. Well, not wine so much as Yellow Tail. I made an innocent comment. “That is swill. If Jesus were here, he would never serve that to people. I wouldn’t pour that on my Christmas tree.” Okay, maybe a little strong but something had to be because God knows the wine wasn’t going to do the job. Sometimes when David would come, he would say mass for us and he’d bring wine. He’s a priest so this isn’t weird. (No weirder than any voodoo.) This was back when we were not yet recovering Catholics. I don’t feel bad giving him grief because I knew him before he was a priest so I’m tolerating the priest thing the way a mother tolerates that her six-year-old refuses to take off his Halloween costume, even though it’s like, April.
Dan is referring to the fact that I grew up in Delaware County in a working class family. When I first started teaching, Dan and I and another teacher friend rented a house. We could have qualified for free cheese, had we applied. We could only afford meat about once a week and survived mostly on pasta and potatoes. We furnished the house with 30-year-old furniture that was given to us and things I picked out of people’s trash – a recliner, a microwave, etc. Even though I am far better off now financially, I have never forgotten where I come from. I pride myself on that. My experiences have shaped who I am. Even now I clean toilets for extra money in the summer. It helps remind me that I am no better than anyone else. That what you do or what you have is not who you are. Cathy always says I taught her to tip people in the service industry properly. “I am those people,” I shrug. “You were those people,” she retorts. No, I still am those people I think to myself but I don’t say it because she likes to think she rescued me.
It must puzzle Dan for me to have any taste in wine, or anything else, for that matter. It was me who could never figure out why anyone would pay $10 for a skinny bottle of wine when you could get a whole gallon for less. I don’t think I am betraying my roots because my taste in wine has matured. Can a person not grow? I did apologize to David.