The text goes out or comes in each and every weekday some time between 12 and 5. It typically reads: “Dogs and wine today?”
That would be one of the loveliest texts I send or receive on a typical day (other than declarations of love from my children or husband). On as many afternoons as possible, in between carpools, dinner prep and homework assistance, my friend and neighbor, Michele, and I convene with our dogs and a glass of wine.
Sometimes, the meeting takes place on her front steps, and we sip as our two 75-plus pound dogs run, tumble, bark or just lie resting nearby. On other days, the scene moves to either the front of my house, or the back patio, depending on how destroyed the grass is by the dogs from a previous day. The backyard allows us to lounge under the shade of our pergola on a hot day, or soak up the sun on a double chaise lounge while again, the dogs frolick on their own.
On certain days, the decision of where to meet depends on who has a bottle of wine open. Or if Michele’s young daughter is home and can’t be left alone, but she’s got no wine on-hand, I’ll just bring some from my house. It’s simply part of the ritual, on any day but Monday (that’s a whole separate story, but I don’t drink on Mondays).
Depending on the day, kids from either home will come out and visit us, or just say hi to the dogs. Invariably, though, it’s just my friend and I. Over wine and dogs, we talk about everything. It could be kids, husbands, friendships, plans, yoga, aging mothers, travels or gardening. It can touch the surface of anything and everything, but at times goes very deep.
I remember a time when my husband and I weren’t getting along, and those regular sessions on Michele’s stoop were as good as any therapy I’d pay for. I’d recount, and sometimes cry. She’d listen and listen some more, comfort and advise.
When Michele’s mother had a tragic bicycle accident resulting in a brain injury, I tried to keep our stoop and patio get togethers as regular as possible, so I could commiserate about the loss of the mother she knew, and provide whatever solace I could. It was my turn to be there for her to lean on.
While the dogs sniff, chew and wrestle, we’ve discussed our career struggles in great length. Her desire to balance a creative career with family and motherhood. Mine to do the same. We share our travel plans, suggesting destinations, restaurants and sites if we are able, and eventually at a later date listen to the aftermath of the trips with anticipation.
What we drink is secondary to our conversation, but the wine has simply become part of the ritual. We’ve drunk in everything from stemless to juice glasses, paper cups to goblets. It all depends on what’s closest at hand, or for me, what my mood is that day.
The weather may determine the color we drink—I’m partial to rose wine on a warm spring or summer day. Red is good any time of year. Interestingly, Michele and her family are partial to French wines, so that’s what we consume chez elle. My husband and I circle the globe in our wine tastes and tend to go for American, Italian and South American wines.
The variety of wine matches the variety of topics from which we can choose. Our friendship stands alone, but is greatly enhanced by our end of the day tradition of dogs and wine. It makes 5:30 pm very appealing.
Caren Osten Gerszberg is a co-founder/editor of the Drinking Diaries. You can see a selection of her work at www.carenosten.com, and follow her on twitter: @carenosten