Friday, August 22, 2014

My Romantic Dragon Slayer

Last August, I felt like I’d been through an emotional spin-cycle and somehow came out of it feeling like someone had shoved me through two tight rollers: leveled, sore, shattered but still alive. I’d been made aware to face my demons head-on and I’d felt so emotionally violated as a result of it that, well, I shut the world out. It was revisiting a familiar place, that I seem to cycle through, only this time…this time I was armed. This actually surprised me quite a bit. Mainly, I think it is because I was open to accepting grace and through the cracks, love shined through. The other times I had been in this state of depression, I’d felt so low, I allowed shame and grief to consume me. I didn’t reach out. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone, largely in part because I was ashamed and mostly because I didn’t want to seem weak and burden someone else with my baggage. So I held tightly onto dark experiences, never openly admitting them to anyone. I had no idea how each of those experiences had left an invisible fingerprint onto how I viewed the world…how I reacted to people. It must be state-the-obvious day, but think about it some…Have you ever reflected on those miniscule moments in time that altered/shaped you? Look at a scar on your body and remember how fast the injury happened, but that everlasting scar, undeniable, and at times, blends in with the rest, but it is there.

When I graduated from college, I was able to share some time with my grandparents. My grandfather had motioned me to him, and let me know that the secret to a long life was to have a shot of tequila every day. If I felt sick, then tequila would cure me. If I was thirsty, the tequila would help. If I was cold, the tequila would warm me. And if I was melancholy, the tequila would medicate my soul. He even presented me with a clay pot that my grandmother told me he kept cool water in, but he whispered he kept some tequila in it, too. ha! I grew up believing my grandfather was this stern, proud stereotypical Latino who loved dancing, did not at all fear hard work, and had a passion for life. I was petrified to ever talk with him as a child. I really don’t know why. I remember his large, weathered hands…hands that had known hard labor for years. The smile creases around his eyes, that I liked to attribute to the many smiles he always gave me. I remember the feel of his stubble on my face and how, coupled with is aftershave, would make my face itch and burn. I remember the blessings he’d pray over our family before we would travel back home, especially in the later years, when he was in his maroon plaid robe, pajama pants, and black leather slippers. The mess of a curl atop his head transitioned from peppered to all white the last time I saw him. When he spoke, I listened.

My first experiences with tequila were quite typical: really bad hangovers—CRUDA. When my uncle passed away, the evening after his funeral, I splurged and bought a bottle of Don Julio 1942 tequila. It was the first sipping tequila I tried and what a completely different experience! I was uncertain if the experience was altered simply because I sat around with my aunt and cousins, sipping this tequila, remembering my uncle, hearing incredible tales of his life’s adventures. My favorite, was of him joining the Navy in spite of not knowing how to swim. The one of him jumping off the ship into the ocean could’ve been horrible, but instead, it was an incredulous moment of strength of spirit and my family’s tenacity. I smell that tequila and I remember my uncle fondly. I remember that evening, and I am connected to my family all over again.

After that evening, I wanted to explore tequila with new eyes. I tried infusing it differently and making fancier cocktails based on classic recipes. I was introduced to Casa Dragones through a local store that had a free tasting. Truthfully, it was on Mama Oprah’s list of favorite things and I wanted the chance to taste a bit of what true luxury felt like.  It was winter and I went with my work buddy. He and I held onto the Riedel tequila drinking glasses and sampled the very best tequila I had ever tasted. Fruity with a peppery-spice back end, the flavors were different, yet very much complimentary. At the price point, however, I was unable to dive into a full bottle.

I kept it in my mind and left it there locked away until last August. I needed comfort. I needed reassurance. I needed something larger than myself. When faced with irrational demons larger than dragons, I needed a dragon slayer. Emotional ache…I splurged on a bottle, that has lasted us very nearly a year. The emotions poured out of me as fluidly as this nectar. But I refused to associate that taste with pain. When given the chance, we would open the bottle and pour a little out to share with friends and family.

You can imagine my excitement when I was invited to another tasting! I’d already tasted it, but this time around, Bertha González Nieves, the first ever female Maestra Tequilera and the maker of Casa Dragones would be presenting the tasting. Additionally, Katherine Clapner, the chocolatier behind Dude, Sweet Chocolate would be there to pair her tasty morsels with the tequila. (chocolate + tequila=outstanding) It became an instant date, further made even more meaningful when one of my running heroes would be joining us along with his wife. I had no idea the tequila lesson we would gain that evening, nor was I prepared to witness the levels of romanticism of my beloved.

As the evening progressed, it felt like we were taking a special tour through San Miguel de Allende around Tequila through the region of Jalisco, Mexico. The breathtaking landscapes, full of rich nutrients ripe for the agave plant to produce the tequila. We were taught the three levels of the glass and what each section would yield in terms of flavor and scent. The objective of attending the tasting was just to learn more and share some quality time. When it came time to make a decision as to whether or not we would make the purchase, I humbly declined, simply because we had some larger upcoming expenses. I was grateful for the experience. I leaned over to Don, asking him if he would grab a photo of me with Bertha and Katherine. If given the opportunity to meet captains of industry, I always jump on it. If faced with the chance to meet females who are captains in the industry, I MUST meet them, grab a photo, and tell their story to my daughters to inspire them of the whole world that exists before them.


I tried to not be too much of a fangirl. I was so excited and I treasure this photo photo so much!

Then Don did something…he flagged down the order taker and grabbed a box. But not only did he grab a box, he struck up a conversation with Bertha González Nieves, encouraging me to tell her my grandfather’s advice. As I told her the story, her brown eyes penetrated my soul as she listened to the story from my heart. I was overcome with pride, my voice shaky, tears streaming from my face. The conversation was brief, but all of the memories flooded the forefront of my thought.  We told her of our daughters and how we try to not only share stories of inspiration of the strong women in our family and of those we met, but also how my culture is very much a part of their lives. We told her of the dreams we had for our daughters. We shared with her the story of my uncle passing. We shared with her how Casa Dragones has been there for us, already, in times of melancholy and in times of celebration. Yes, it is a bottle of tequila, but to us, there is so very much more rooted within the beautiful package.

And so, he handed the bottle to her and asked her to personalize it (when you purchased the bottle at this tasting, a master calligrapher would inscribe your words). She’d taken some notes during our conversation, she signed the box and we told her where we wanted the calligrapher to write words. A few short weeks later, we received this memento, honoring my grandfather:



That was my husband’s gift to me. A reminder that family is important, that tradition matters, that with patience (it takes at least 8 years for the plant to grow—sometimes 12, then the tequila ages for 5 years!) all hurts can heal. Scars, whether invisible or invisible, can hurt, but with time…

Sit. Wait. Sip.  {a hug from the inside, from deep within the soul}

I adore these gestures of my beloved. I adore his romanticism. I appreciate his patience. I appreciate his ability to still surprise me. I treasure the amazing---my romantic dragon slayer.

1 comment:

Melissa Guevara said...

I'm bawling reading this. Thank you for sharing. ♥

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