My brother sounded perturbed. In between running to Ikea, Target, and Crate & Barrel for his mother-in-law, he had left messages on both my cell phone (which I never answer) and at the house; problems lay ahead. All I could imagine was that we'd been demoted, as an entire family unit. The mother-in-law, who has one toddler grandson of her own, had invited our whole, rambunctious clan to join her and her family for Thanksgiving in her immaculately adorned, Pasadena historic home. And now, envisioning shards of shattered Limoges teacup and magic marker doodles embellishing her wallpaper, she'd chosen to snap the olive branch precariously tethering our 5 man entourage to her family tree. Even if I could contain our egregious mess within my minivan during travel, a trail of half-eaten banana slices, sticky, slimy fruit rolls, and a random collage of Hello Kitty stickers would inevitably follow my three kids into her color-coordinated living room, like ants queuing up to a forgotten cookie crumble. When I finally got around to returning my brother's phone call, he beat-around-the-bush, sheepish and tentative, opening with benign pleasantries. Finally he said, "Listen, I was wondering if you could, you know, um- well... just bring your own wine." Pause. "It's not that we mind paying for it. We just don't even know what you guys like anymore."
What??!! Angina and fearing a solo family Thanksgiving for that? Unfortunately, starting a wine company has duped even our most beloved into thinking we're legitimately knowledgeable about "Wine". Did he miss the blog post about my being a poser? Has my business card title "wine proprietor" invoked such anxiety and pressure in our hosts and hostesses that they needlessly perseverate whether the wine they've selected for dinner is too cheap, too expensive, too fancy, too plebian, or the wrong vintage, wrong country, wrong grape or wrong color? Clearly, being a newly minted expert is exhausting my friends. Of course I told my brother not to worry, and that we'd bring our own buzz. (Although to be sure, even a jeroboam or two would fail to dull my glaze to the potential destruction my kiddies could accomplish in mere minutes when left alone with eye-level, china statuettes).
For three days Brian and I pontificated and played the wine geek card, arguing the best possible match for the smorgasbord of turkey, green bean casserole, and marshmallow topped sweet potatoes we'd soon inhale. I even set out our snappy, leather wine tote to curb the possibility of flying Hot Wheels chipping our best bottle on the I-5 north. Thanksgiving morning we loaded the kids, the clothes, the toys and snacks galore, one ratty, stuffed eeyore and two security blankies and topped the mountain of muck with a plastic potty seat and a super-size pack of Costco wet-wipes. And then we re-loaded the kids again (wrong colored socks and two missed potty opportunities later...).
Wouldn't you know it? The kids were great - really well mannered and surprisingly mellow.
And our perfectly selected wine choice? Well, in the pre-departure chaos we'd somehow managed to forget the bottles at home, on the kitchen table.
What our hostess poured for us instead was the most delicious, perfect Thanksgiving wine I'd ever tasted, although I never even got a chance to find out what it was.