The View from Mrs. Sundberg’s Window
Made some Sangria on Saturday and it was not bad. Never have been a fan of drinking a whole lot of alcohol, but now and then it seems just fine to mix up a batch of something calling for vodka or brandy or rum. Long as “moderation” is a key word, and we’re all in for the day. As I grew up in Wisconsin, beer was always the drink of choice, followed by wine or wine coolers or – on a cold winter’s night – a shot of whiskey. Which is all fine, but a fun summer beverage can be something of an event.
It was my parents who, in my own mind, perfected the celebratory grown-up drink. Grasshoppers were the best (we always got to taste) with a hazelnut or two plopped on top to make it special. Or brandy alexanders. Or glowing green vodka slushes at Christmas time, or sparkly angria in the summer sun. There was always a strange kind of reverence on our part as kids, my brothers and me, when we got to try out these amazing and delicious drinks – only a sip, mind you – and our parents were careful to limit our proximity.
Oh, how I wanted to be grown up. To be privy to the other side of what it meant to “have a drink” in the evening. To be able to actually drive a car wherever I wanted to go. To engage in the late-night discussions at the kitchen table with friends. To play cards, to have enough money to buy whatever groceries we might wish buy, to have friends over for 50s parties and New Year’s Eve parties and dance and gossip and stay up most of the night.
There was so much about being grown up for which I yearned. At the heart of it all, a kind of freedom to do all the things grownups do without someone telling me when I have to be home, without having to account for my whereabouts, without someone saying, “You can have a taste, and that’s all.”
I’m sitting here sipping sangria, laughing to myself. Here I am, all grown up, able to drink five sangrias if I wish, able to drive anywhere in the country on Tuesday afternoon, the freedom to bake and cook and eat anything I like, to shop on the Internet, to have parties every weekend if I wish. Freedom all ‘round to do what I choose, and here I am in the night wishing for my childhood again, for a day, even, for the very freedom of childhood itself. Innocence, maybe. A time when there were no tax issues or carburetor troubles or flight delays or mortgage payments. A time without a bathroom scale or lawsuits or plumbing issues or gray hair (which I happen to like, but that’s for another day).
This is life. All of it. A childhood of longing, and here, some half a century later, longing still. The thing is, then, I think, to see what we have in the here and now and not look to the past or the future but into what IS. That very thing for which we wished; the thing to which we might look back and think, “Yes, I want that. I want to be there.” And to not simply taste it, but drink it down. Not eavesdrop on the steps when everyone is dancing, but to join in the dance itself. Not map out glorious adventures in notebooks but to embark upon them. Not wish for a kind of life, but to live this day. This life. It is, after all, the only one we got. Shame to let it fly on by.
Here’s something cool and refreshing, and I would argue a bit on the healthful side. Something to share with friends in the heat of the day, or sip with your sweetheart on the deck as the sun fades. Something for any moment that finds you where you are.
½ apple, skin-on, crushed into small pieces
½ orange, rind-on, seeds removed, sliced into small pieces (more for garnish)
3-4 T brown sugar
¾ cup orange juice
1/3 cup brandy
1 750 ml bottle dry Spanish wine
Add apples, oranges and sugar to a large pitcher and muddle with a wooden spoon for a good while.
Add orange juice and brandy, and muddle for another good while.
Add red wine and stir. Add more orange juice, brandy or brown sugar to taste. Add some ice and stir. Chill and serve with ice and garnish with orange segments.