Don’t Wait for a Special Occasion


I recently found myself singing the old ear worm of a drinking song. “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around…”

I wasn’t toasting in a tavern or passing the hours in a long car ride or cajoling around a campfire. I was standing in front of a closet in my mother’s house, passing bottles to my sister as she counted.

Only it was 94 bottles of wine (mostly wine) and liquor, not beer that we counted.

This cache of vino, curated last century, languished in less-than-ideal storage for decades. But now my mother is downsizing, and we are helping her with that effort.

She has lived in her home for 50 years. While she keeps it neat and tidy, we are wading through 50 years of books, 50 years of photographs, 50 years of craft materials, 50 years of tools — my mother has all the scissors, in case you are looking for some — 50 years of memories. 

The wine collection developed along with their brimming friendship with neighbors — the Whites were vinophiles — when they lived in Asheville long ago. 

Many of the bottles were from the year of my birth, the Bicentennial of 1976. I’ll let you do the math to compute how old they are, and therefore, I am. I’m hoping arithmetic isn’t your forte.

As we pulled the bottles from the recesses of the coat closet — the middle class wine cellar — I hoped we might come across a rare vintage, matured to its full bouquet. Like me! 

Unfortunately, every bottle was spoiled. A total loss. What a shame. Without proper storage, elements infiltrate even dark glass bottles and tight corks. The bottles, prized for their sublime contents and sophisticated notes, were full of vinegar. The delicate chemistry of their delights broke down over many years.

The time to enjoy a glass together has come and gone. My parents saved those bottles for special occasions but for whatever reason, never opened their contents. I’d have liked to have shared a toast of the ‘76 Margaux with my mom and dad on my 21st birthday. But birthdays and anniversaries passed by us all. The wine, in its waiting, went bad.

Sometimes when good things come our way, we think we have to squirrel those things away in case we need them or for a momentous event. We think we are being frugal and wise. But by saving, we can end up wasting the good. 

We poured out the murky, sedimented fermented grape juice and salvaged a few of the bottles to hang on the wall. Perhaps they will be a reminder to us to savor the good while we have it. 

Life is tough enough without having to wait to press our enjoyment from it. This new year, I resolve to drink the fancy bottle of wine on an ordinary Monday, to use the good lotion unsparingly, to eat dessert first if it’s homemade and to uncork any words of love and kindness I’ve kept bottled inside and pour them out so they can breathe. Pass it around. 

Contact Maggie Beamguard at