I started drinking wine when I was seven years old.
My mom took me to a store in Portland to pick out a very specific dress for the occasion. That Sunday I stood side by side with my peers in our itchy new clothes lined up to marry Jesus.
Lots of things were said by the grownups and we repeated the words just as we were taught. We had a cracker and a sip of wine. And we were told we would be saved. For now- as long as we didn’t sin before next week.
And in the inevitable case that we did sin- well, we were given the opportunity to sit alone in a small dark box with a chubby old man that you could smell but not see. We tell him the naughty things we had done and ask for his forgiveness. We recite more words. As long as we did that, we were allowed to have wine again that Sunday. It always made me cringe and feel not good enough, but hey, I should feel lucky that I have a chance to confess.
I confessed in the dark, I drank my wine in the light, and hoped I was good enough to be saved.
As I got older and refused confession I would sit in the pew as people shuffled past my knees to get in line for communion. With each hushed “excuse me” all I heard was “shame, shame”.
I always noticed my aunties took gulps of their saving grace, not sips, with slightly shaky hands. I would try to take a bigger gulp each week to seem more grown-up like them. I would anxiously glance around the church for a nod of approval that never came.
Now I am an auntie and I gulp my wine in the shower on a week day afternoon, no longer as a child under the blessing of a sweaty man in a robe looming over me.
I don’t look for approval in my wine any more, but perhaps sometimes I do still look for it to save me.
And Lord knows it does.