The long curves of the Merritt Parkway had winding tree lined byways connecting the wealthy of Western Connecticut to the rolling hills of the Berkshires and the Catskills beyond. It was a lovely drive the couple had come to love.
Andrew enjoyed Cynthia’s narcoleptic relationship sitting in the passenger seat next to him. The long stretches of quiet and winding roads this particular route afforded were to his liking. He was no longer the young man that tore through these roads, and his wife was no longer the young girl bubbling with energy and the endless need to entertain.
Once Cynthia drifted to sleep Andrew took turns that looked plausible in an effort to get slightly off track. He’d hoped an adventure would find them. This particular road was lined by vast rolling fields before long stretching mountains. The landscape had been dotted with century-old cedars and oaks. Andrew noted a second sign on a conveniently located roadside tree that spoke of the ‘Connecticut Wine Trail.’ This intrigued and amused him. Who were these people that clearly invested their lives and fortunes into creating wineries in the rolling hills of western Connecticut? The idea danced so fanciful within his mind, he couldn’t stop conjuring the people so intrigued. These people were so moved by the idea, that they made the leap. A leap based on believing that Connecticut wines would sustain their dreams. He wondered whether the climate would allow for proper vineyards or if said wineries had to purchase grapes. He smirked at the thought of the “Connecticut Wine Trail.’
He followed the signs. Thirty-five minutes, winding through western connecticut before finally coming upon a vineyard. A true vineyard. The ghosts of last year’s crop were evident in the early spring light. The burgeoning spring light straddled the line with late winter as it lit the barn atop the hill of sloping, arable farmland. It was more a painting he thought than anything, beautiful and serene. The vibrancy of the red barn made more perfect for being flawed and flecked, the paint peeling away after a harsh winter. A tiny road wound through the skeletal rows of still sleeping vines that would grow the grapes of the Connecticut winemaker.
Andrew loved the wine tastings he and Cynthia used to go on their visits while visiting with Annie in school. The finger lakes may not have been California or Italy or France, but they were proper wine making country. It was like visiting a foreign land, riding along the beautiful stretch of road between Watkins Glen and Geneva. Thirty miles along a ridge, looking down to the freshwater Seneca Lake. He understood why a new vineyard seemed to pop up every time they visited these lands. Initially, he thought the region had hit their critical mass, but it wasn’t even close. This was affordable land. It bore forth a wine region within the grasp of common folks.
At first they didn’t do much more than stop in for a bottle or two of the local wines at a liquor store on their way out of town after their visits to see their girl on family weekends. They’d stop the roadside farmstand, covered fully, structurally sound as the climate dictated it must be, but otherwise bare bones with a sign out front. ‘Take home a grape pie’ and they would. It was a fine pie, but always a tad less sweet than they’d imagined. They never once saw a person there. They loved that it was an honor system. Fresh pies wrapped in cellophane with a box top and a note imploring the customer to take what they will and be honest about paying the listed price. They, as it would appear a few others, always left a bit more. Happy to pay for the charm of such a transaction.
Before long they were accustomed to heading up a night as they wished to arrive early and stay at one of the beautiful grand old hotels located on the north end of the lake outside Geneva. They would leave in the pre-dawn hours in order to get off the thruway early and travel the final 30 miles or so riding next to the lake. In Watkins Glen on the south end, there was a great sandwich shop. They always got the same thing; a bag of crunchy, salty, ‘boutique’ potato chips as Andrew called them, and the toasted multigrain bread with cucumber, apples, sprouts and cream cheese. Andrew rolled his eyes at first, but after a single bite it became a regular part of their diet, always sure to have the fixins at home for a quick and delicious lunch. It never tasted as good as it did at the sandwich shop. They may have frequented a dozen times over the years without once taking the time to memorize the name. The name had been lost in the charm and character.
It didn’t take long for these nights away to become weekends away. Cynthia loved everything about the area. Her favorite thing to do in town, in fact, was to daydream on the houses in the realtor’s windows. To pick those she loved the most. They’d marvel at the truly reasonable prices. At that time she hadn’t imagined yet that she didn’t and wouldn’t need a four bedroom with a huge downstairs play area and a backyard big enough to play in. After all, they were in the final years. Even Annie wouldn’t always be reasonably expected to come home for the summers. For his part Andrew could see that it made her happy to daydream and it certainly was amazing to see the difference between the housing markets.
If the Connecticut he lived in, the New York City accessible Connecticut could be moved here, the prices would be five times what they were. He’d vacillate between shaking his head at the yokels who had no idea the value of the property they sat on. He’d and corrected his own assessment by reminding himself that the reasons the markets were different had little to do with an individual’s home and everything to do with location. Regardless, he enjoyed perusing the homes with Cynthia. Looking and discussing the relative merits of each, not in real terms but in silly far off looking ways, considering the viability of living in this fantasy land.
Cynthia’s blind spot was so clear to him back then. She’d never again need so much space, would never again be feeding a house full of kids. Perhaps holidays with kids and grandkids years down the line. In turn she saw what he didn’t. It’s what made them who they were, these complementary perspectives. She knew he never thought there would be a time when he’d hang it all up. She knew he didn’t take her daydreams seriously, but she didn’t take them too seriously either. At this point daydreams were all they really were. But she also knew that he wasn’t yet ready to understand that his life would someday change too. Not the kids and not the family responsibility. That part was already changing. Work. He never thought that this obligation would ever end. Truth is she couldn’t yet let him know, it was still years away and he wasn’t ready to digest the idea. But someday they could just get up, pack their belongings, and leave. They’d go anywhere they wanted. Live anywhere they were happy. Someday they’d be the oldest people in the room and they’d be able to avail themselves of the privilege that would afford.
As Andrew drove through the sun dappled and still starkly bare vineyard he put his hand on Cynthia’s leg. He’d have never suspected when he was a younger man that she’d ever get old. If he’d seen a picture of her at 63 when he was 25 years-old, he would surely have said that sex would have stopped long ago. To some degree he’d have been right. There wasn’t a ton of it in the middle years. It was hard to find the time for anything then. Sex took a while to become a priority again.
It would all change. He would change. The thrill that was so loudly and aggressively visceral in his attraction to her in their youth had matured, but never dampened. It was more full now. He wanted all of her. Including the accoutrements. He loved the feel of her leg beneath her dress. He loved the extra layer of her stockings, which she’d started wearing for him years earlier, knowing it was something he liked. He liked them so much he could hardly keep his hands off of her. During those middle years when life was crazy and there was never enough time; those moments really got her through. The little stolen grabs in the kitchen while they were doing the dance of raising kids which left you so often unable to be adored. He’d see her stretch pants or pantyose and it would drive him wild. Suddenly he’d be making wisecracks and slipping innuendos into conversations with the kids that they would never catch and she’d never miss. Now they had the time and the sex was as wonderful and fulfilling as ever.
He rubbed her leg gently, taking in the taut feel the tights provided, enjoying her smell and her sleeping peacefulness. He drove slowly turning around at the barn and making his way back through the vineyard. As he got to the bottom of the hill he turned around in the road and reversed the car backwards into the vineyard, the barn off in the distance up the winding hill through the vines.
‘Hey honey..’ he said. ‘I need a pitstop.’
Cynthia rubbed her eyes and got her bearings. And when she was fully alert, but not fully aware, she asked, “Where are we?”
“The Connecticut Wine Trail. Would you like to grab lunch?”
About the Author: Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wonderful wife and two wonderful young sons. He writes mostly about fatherhood and marriage on his blog, Developing Dad but harbors fantasies of being a novelist someday. You can connect with him on Facebook at Developing Dad or follow him on Twitter @joemedler.