I should preface this stating: I’ve been clean and sober twenty-seven years this coming Thanksgiving. Having said that, I may have but one bittersweet memory — that of homemade red wine.
It was at Aunt Josie’s dinner table five and a half decades ago; her husband, Uncle Mike sat on the opposite side of the table in their second floor Ozone Park, New York duplex. Uncle Mike was the kind of guy who rough-housed with me; he’d untuck my white dress shirt, pull the clip-on bow tie off, then mess up my slicked Vitalis hair, laugh uncontrollably, hearing Jean, my mother give it to him, “Mike, he looked so nice when we got here, look what you did to him.”
Maybe I was all of five, but still recall Uncle Mike’s jug of Dago red wine stashed under his dining room chair during mealtime. He’d pour me a quarter inch, bop the side of my head, coaxing, “Hava dringa.” I remember his basement brew’s distinct aroma as much as the full-bodied flavor like it was yesterday.
Meandering through Castellammare del Golfo these days I’ve spot countless Uncle Mike characters; although they’re complete strangers, I actually feel I know them.