My wife cringes when a wine glass is broken--attributing an importance to the wine glass that I don't. I believe the opposite. The occasional broken wine glass is a good omen--a sign of life well-lived. It means your wine glasses are getting used. You're toasting, cleaning, rinsing, dropping--a good thing!
-Scott Huler, writer of On the Grid-
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Yesterday, I stopped by a friend's house to pick up her cable box--to return it to the cable company. She had moved last week--and it was the one errand she ran out of time to do.
It was so strange to walk into her house--now for sale, and beautifully staged--but without any sign of life. It was a house that has hosted so many celebrations--so many wine glasses raised for toasts--for holidays or for just friends and family getting together.
As I drove home after dropping off the cable box I changed the radio station. I had no idea what show I was listening to--but I was mesmerized by the voice of Scott Huler--sharing his story about wine glasses--and celebrations. As I listened, tears streamed down my face.
When I got home I listened again to Scott's story, and I wrote down every word--so I could remember it--and share it. Scott does a much better job of telling the story than reading it ever could, so if you have a bit of time, listen to it here . Thank you, Frannie! If it hadn't been for the cable box, I never would have heard Scott's & Dan's story!
And by the way--my blog name--Happy Healthy Long Life comes from the toast in Fiddler on the Roof: To life, to life, L'Chaim. Be happy, be healthy, long life!
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of the Splendid Table: Scott Huler has a story that will put out to pasture that old adage--Moderation in All Things--and replace it with this--Never Celebrate Tomorrow, What You Can Celebrate Today!
Scott: Somewhere between the cupboard & the dishwasher, a wine glass breaks. Who knows the cause? But it's not a big deal--not important.
It is to my wife. She cringes--attributing an importance to the wine glass that I don't.
I believe the opposite. The occasional broken wine glass is a good omen. A sign of life well-lived. It means your wine glasses are getting used. You're toasting, cleaning, rinsing, dropping--a good thing!
I'm no wine snob--but wine means so much to us. We drink it with family & friends--at worship--at celebrations. No surprise at Jewish weddings we celebrate by breaking a wine glass. Wine flows through our lives like blood through our veins.
So, as I sweep up the broken wine glass, I remember a story about--not a glass--but a bottle wine.
My friend, novelist Dan Gearino, has told it many times.
Dan: When I got married in 1982, one of the gifts my wife & I got was this very nice expensive bottle of wine. And rather than, sort of drink it right then--we saved it.
We were going to open it for a special occasion. And you know, special occasions kept coming and going--they came with the birth of a child. Our own first wedding anniversary. There was the birth of a second child--and we kept sort of--none of them quite seemed the really BIG ONCE IN A LIFETIME kind of special occasion.
And others came--you know, when I got my first book published I thought that would be a special occasion. But, the call you get from your agent--is that the special occasion? Or when the contract arrives? That's just paperwork.
So again, there was no perfect special occasion.
Scott: Dan used to tell this story at readings to demonstrate the life of an author wasn't as filled with celebration as one might think.
The times I followed him to the podium I used to say that the story demonstrates only that Dan Gearino didn't drink enough wine. An easy laugh.
But the story grew more complex. And what happened is....
Dan: 20 years after getting that bottle of wine--my wife got sick. She had a headache one day & couldn't shake it. And after awhile she went to the doctor & the doctor found multiple brain tumors. She had metastatic melanoma. Four and a half months after being diagnosed she died.
And I realized there never was going to be a special occasion worthy of that bottle of wine. And I didn't know what to do with it.
Scott: Not long thereafter, I myself got married. We broke a wine glass & everyone cried, "Mazel Tov!" Good Luck!
Shortly thereafter Dan & I met for lunch & he brought a gift in a brown paper bag--a bottle of wine & two glasses.
Dan: I decided that the perfect gift would be this bottle of wine & a couple of wine glasses.
And that would be part of the gift--the other part of the gift would be this story, with the lesson being:
"That you don't put off that kind of indulgence. Enjoy this with your wife at the first possible opportunity--and take this bottle--take these glasses & don't make the same mistake I did."
Scott: The paper bag was handed from one moist-eyed guy to another, and I brought home the bottle with strict instructions:
We were to drink the wine & smash the glasses!
Well, we tried. Dan had worried about how well the wine, Chateau Margaux 1978, (in case you were wondering--it's worth $200 today) had aged.
Suspicious drippy marks on the neck raised questions that the first gentle tap of the corkscrew answered. The withered cork dropped instantly into the bottle of wine--which had grown horribly bad.
The wine went down the drain. The empty bottle moved to the top shelf of my office--a souvenir of "something".
And the two glasses--unbroken--went in the back of the cupboard, marked for their single use. We couldn't defile them with the stuff out of a box we usually drink. But neither could we break them before they had done their job.
Fortunately time goes on, even despite heartbreak and tragedy. It has been mostly kind. My wife & I have been married now for three years--a little boy--and an uncounted number of projects that speak of a fortunate life.
So, we got to thinking. Dan is doing well by now--even has a "steady girl". To clear out those two unbroken glasses, maybe instead of waiting for a special occasion we ought to get a new bottle and two more glasses.
I went to a wine store to replace the Chateau Margeaux & learned & spent a lot more than I planned to. But let's just say I ended up with a Bordeaux, from St. Estephe--a lower rent region right next to Chateau Margeaux.
We arrived at Dan's house & decanted the wine--to let it breathe.
But, it's a funny thing. We set to eating some Cajun creation of Dan's & an hour later we took out the special glasses.
"Cheers" "So happy..." "Mmm" "Damn that's good!"
And of course, it was good. We drank the whole bottle. Dan took a moment to explain that the custom of smashing a wine glass comes from--toasting the bride & destroying the glass so that it may never be used for a less noble purpose.
We were just four friends, happily killing a few bottles of wine. That seemed to be purpose enough! But still we had committed ourselves to using those glasses only once--but who wanted to clean up a mess?
So, instead of smashing them, we trooped down to the pond at the back of Dan's yard.
1 - 2 -3. Into the pond. "They will never be used for a less noble purpose - unless someone's going to wade out there & get them."
I suppose this means we have learned Dan's lesson:
"That the best honor you can give a bottle of wine is to drink it!"
And I hope a little of my own lesson comes along to:
"That the wine glass means less than the wine that's in it--and that they both mean less than the hand holding it.
And when a wine glass sees its final use--whether you drop it or crush it under your foot or fling it into the pond--you should always remember--it's Good Luck. Mazel Tov!"
Me: In two weeks we'll be traveling to New York City to celebrate two absolutely wonderful milestone occasions. I think I'll bring along a special bottle of wine or two and some glasses that we'll smash in honor of these 2 special celebrations. And then carefully place them into the recycling bin.
Tevye: To life, to life, l'Chaim. Be happy, be healthy, long life. And if your good fortune never comes, here's to whatever comes, drink l'Chaim, to life!