Friday, August 03, 2007

A Pivotal Moment

January, 2004

The day of my final exam was upon me.

It was a typical snowy, January morning in New York City. Cars sloshed down the streets, and pedestrians ambled carefully so as not to ruin their expensive footwear. Shod in my mother’s old Duck boots (all of my attempts at fashion, which in a city like New York came out half-assed anyway, went to the wayside when it meant that my feet were in danger of getting wet), I stood outside the gray building south of Houston Street and looked up at the sign on the door. This was it. The American Sommelier Association. The locale of the test that I had spent the last five months dreading.


As I rode the elevator up to the sixth floor, I mentally crammed. Name the five first growths of Bordeaux. Got it. What are the major grape varietals in Piedmont? Easy. What does Trockenbeerenauslese mean in reference to German rieslings? I was golden.

After settling into my seat, I flipped over the test in front of me and did a quick scan of the short-answer questions. Panic ensued as I systematically blanked on most of the answers. I started to feel claustrophobic, like I was drowning in a Nebuchadnezzar-sized wine bottle, and my instructor was pushing in the cork.

Two hours later, I surrendered the exam, brain fried. I gathered up my belongings in defeat and ran to the elevator wondering how I could have done so poorly on the final, when I had an 85 average on the dozens of other tests we had taken? The elevator car finally hit the ground floor, and I sprinted for the door and burst out onto Broadway, gasping for breath. Two completely dazed blocks later, I called my mother, choking back tears, and attempted to explain what had happened.

“Erin, do you need to come home?” she ventured.

That did it. The flood gates burst open. “Yes,” I wailed, “I want to move back home.”

My hand flew to cover my mouth. Had I really just admitted to myself and my mother that it was time to move back to Richmond?


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