To accurately express the intense feeling of holding a finished copy of my memoir in my hands is surprisingly difficult. When I try to find something to correlate it to, giving birth comes to mind. Even though I’ve never actually done that, I imagine the two experiences share some aspects . . . prolonged pain, euphoric joy, a seemingly endless gestation, among others. Then again, I may be completely off my rocker. Please do not take offense if I am.
Creating a book is certainly different than creating a child. With a book, or at least with mine, it mostly sat lifeless in my hands for years as I waited for it to prove its viability with a good, solid kick. Lifeless until I nurtured it to the point that it could catch its first breath. Then, once it did, it took on a life of its own. I became both curator and curious onlooker, mamma and kid sister, wondering, at times, how far I’d follow this thing down the poorly lit road it seemed to be traveling. Twenty-plus years after writing the first words, we seem to have arrived at our destination.
Twenty years. What better way to celebrate it than opening a forty-year-old bottle of tawny port? Sandeman, of course. My favorite. Forty years this wine has been aging inside of its barrel – forty years since Portuguese vintners, high on the terraces above of the Duoro River, crushed tiny grapes beneath their feet. This bottle of port is twice as old as my book, and almost as old as I am.
My husband of nearly twenty five years and the mother who birthed me nearly fifty years ago watch as the fortified wine tinkles and glugs into our glasses. All these numbers swirl in my head as we raise the deep honey-toned liquid, watch golden lightning bolts shoot through it, and clink our glasses to toast the moment. Vanilla. Caramel. Sweet. Strong. Deep. Fragrant. Ambrosia. This is a long-awaited toast – one each of us doubted, at times, would ever come.
But now I am holding an actual book. The slickness of the cover is what I notice first . . . then the weight of the pages in my hands . . . how the spine cracks as I open it wide. I bury my nose in its depths. The scent is so clean and pure, it reminds me of sun-kissed sheets. The new paper smells warm and feels cool at the same time. Perhaps it's the only the binding glue, but my head spins all the same.
When I finally set the book down, it thunks onto the table. The vibrant colors of the book jacket reach out to me. I open its front cover, pause to appreciate the sky blue lining, and then I slip the jacket off. I want to hold this naked book in my hands, feel it as bare as a newborn babe against my skin.
The silvery-white embellishments catch me by surprise. I approved them over a month ago, but I was away from home with only a too-small smart phone to portray what I was actually approving. It is beautiful, this inside cover. Not as striking as the exterior with all its fancy makeup and primed-for-performance props, but it is beautiful all the same.
I want to read it, but I won’t. Not yet. Though part of me wants to dive in immediately, check to see if it has all its fingers and toes, the rest of me knows it doesn’t matter. Despite its potential faults, I will love this book all the same for the focus and the freedom it represents in my life. The storyline is about a circus adventure – but more than that, it is an adventure of the heart. Two hearts, really, as two people took the difficult leap into emotional adulthood, shed their immature concepts of romance, and gained the capacity to form a life-long partnership.
I smile at my husband as I sip my port. The juxtaposition of a wine which took forty years to mature against a book that took only twenty years does not escape me. No matter how important this moment is to me, it is but a moment in time, fleeting, as most are. I slide my fingers once more across the book’s slick jacket and touch the glass of port to my lips, appreciating how the age of this lovely wine puts things into perspective. Both could be gone in a matter of minutes.
My love affair with Stefano, however, is destined to last.