Back when I was on Blossom, I had the honor of working with the inimitable Bill Bixby. He was a powerhouse, a consummate professional, a clever and artful director, and a loving man. He became like a grandfather to me, and when cancer took his life I was devastated to the core. While many of my memories of him have faded over time, there are several that still resonate. The strongest of those is a flashback of Bill delivering one of his favorite quotes, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine.” Those words have hit me from time to time over the last few years, as I’ve recognized my own habit of holding onto the “good stuff” until I have an obvious excuse to use it. It’s as if I’m saving up for a rainy day. My favorite example of this is actually from May 2, 2010.
It happened to be my thirty-third birthday, and my husband woke me up while it was still dark out. “Honey, I’m sorry to get you up so early…” he began. I felt a stir of excitement as I opened my eyes, fully expecting some wonderful birthday surprise such as breakfast in bed or an out of town trip. No such luck. “The house is flooding,” he continued urgently, “and we need to move all of our stuff up to the second floor.” Ah,yes… the perfect way to begin a new year of my life. As I set my foot down onto our bedroom carpet, the water squished beneath my toes. The floods of Nashville were upon us, and our entire downstairs was under an inch of water. It was an adventurous day spent transporting all of our belongings, tearing up carpet, and wringing out soggy keepsakes. And we were the lucky ones. We had friends and neighbors who lost their homes that day, so I’m in no way complaining about a lost carpet or getting my hands a little dirty. That said it made for an interesting birthday celebration. The restaurant where we’d originally made reservations was closed due to flooding, as was every other restaurant we tried. We wound up creating our own in-house fun instead. As we carted bottles of wine up the steps that I’d been collecting for more than a decade, moving them to higher and drier ground, I got to thinking about how I’d been saving them for some ceremonious moment or the aforementioned rainy day. And that’s when I realized: this IS the rainy day! Damned if my birthday/the flood scenario didn’t meet both of my qualifying criteria! Brad and I drank well that evening, savoring sips of Chateau Margaux as we mopped the floor. We stood there in our soaked sweats and galoshes and we drank the good wine. It was a memorable time, to say the least! But it dawns on me that I need to create those moments a bit more frequently. I mean, I’ve got dozens of bottles still waiting to be imbibed… allowing them to spoil would be a tragedy! For some background, I’ve always been a wine enthusiast. Having grown up in a very European household, I was taught to appreciate the delight of a gorgeous glass of vino along with the food it is destined to accompany. Accordingly, when I was in my twenties, I began to collect high-end bottles each time I traveled. I purchased a variety of stunning choices from France, Italy and Napa Valley. I even turned one room of my house into a wine bar, so that I could properly store and classify everything. Now that I’m a bit older, I am more conservative with money. Expensive wines aren’t currently a priority on our list of financial expenditures. There are just too many practical things that take precedence. But, as it happens, that doesn’t much matter. You see, when I was younger, I always maintained the notion that I should store my purchases for the future. And while I opened a few fancy bottles here and there, I watched as the bulk of them collected dust. I just kept telling myself I’d spent too much money to “waste” them on a run of the mill dinner at home. Consequently, I now have a house full of elegant options waiting to be consumed. They are wines that I wouldn’t otherwise spend the money on. The irony, of course, is that wine doesn’t last forever. If we wait too long to drink my collection, all of that money goes down the drain… quite literally. So what are we waiting for? The other night, I got to thinking about that lovely phrase Bill used to say, and I decided to alter my view of what denotes a “special occasion.” Gray learned to roll over in her crib today? Let’s celebrate with that Eric Kent Syrah we’ve been drooling over. Brad did exceptionally well at work this month? Let’s pop the cork on that Barolo we brought back from Piedmont. This new way of thinking is working quite well for us, as you can imagine. In fact, I’m nursing a glass of Bordeaux as I write this! We’ve discovered that many of the wines are at the tail end of their best drinking years anyway, so I figure that’s enough of a reason to continue our wonderful wine marathon. And I have even more appreciation for them now than I had when I bought them, because now I get to share them with my husband.
My “saving it for a rainy day” mantra doesn’t seem to end with wine. I’ve found it extends to all things I deem valuable or extravagant. For instance, I’ve been eyeing a dress in my closet for several months now. It’s one of the nicer ones I own, and I finally fit back into it after losing my pregnancy weight. I’ve been waiting for, and looking forward to, the perfect opportunity to wear it. Every time my husband and I go out to dinner, I gaze at it fondly and think, “It’s just too nice to wear out tonight. What if it winds up with baby spit up down the front of it?” I’ve talked myself out of it a thousand times. But what’s the worst thing that could happen~ I spill marinara sauce on my lap? That’s what stain remover is for, and why the dry cleaner exists. Even if the gown winds up dying at the hands of some catastrophic dinner debacle, doesn’t that mean it served its purpose and was worn with love? I swear, one of these nights I’m going to show up in it at my own dining room table. I can see it now: hamburgers, French fries, and my expensive dress. It will be my way of defying my own absurd rules.
I guess my purpose in sharing all of this is the following: why not find a way to make every day a special occasion? Pour the expensive wine. Break out the wedding china for a weekend breakfast with your husband and kids. So what if a dish breaks. How special can they really be, if all they do is sit in the cabinet? I’m realizing that the simple moments we share as a family are some of the most important and treasured. These are the people I want to serve meals to on the special dishes. These are the people I want to wear my nice dress for.
This Thanksgiving, I sent up a big nod of thanks to Bill Bixby, as we set out the good china and opened one of our best bottles of wine. All of it was done in honor of the incalculable love and blessings bestowed upon us each and every day. And sometimes that’s all the excuse that’s needed…
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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