Trampling Grapes – A Childhood Memory

The subject of my alcohol-fuelled childhood recently came up and not in therapy as one would imagine.

Both my grandfathers were Portuguese and both were winemakers like their fathers before them.  Growing grapes and making wine was never an option for either one of them. It was just something they did.  I don’t recall ever seeing my grandparents buy a bottle of wine just like I can’t recall a time when there wasn’t an open bottle of wine at the dinner table.  Each year at harvest time, my sister and I were brought in to help with the picking and making of wine and since our grandparents lived on separate properties we were really busy.

I guess this was our first experience with work although we loved it so much we didn’t think of it as work.

My sister and I were the only ones allowed to trample the grapes in the winepress.

We had the sense from the way our grandfathers sought us out – and only us – that we added ‘magic’ to the process as we sang our childish songs and trampled those grapes with an enthusiasm I sometimes wish I could recapture.  I seem to recall we would wear the absolute minimum for the job – bathing suits and very short shorts and raggedy t-shirts.  We were sticky and sweet for days 🙂

By now you must be thinking my grandparents lived on farms but no, they nurtured their vines in their suburban gardens; those vines offered shelter from the harsh African sun under which we enjoyed extended barbecues and spilled gloriously green and abundant over their respective garages and boundary walls.

There was of course a reason for our enthusiasm.  My sister and I knew what would happen as the grapes were left to ferment in large vats.  Samples had to be taken during the process of fermentation and someone had to be on hand to turn the tap and pour those first drops of sweet nectar.  My sister and I were available.  It’s not like we had anything else to do but attend school.

You may think we were drunk a lot.  I don’t believe we ever were.  We were allowed to drink wine (one small glass each) from an early age and I credit that experience to the fact that I know when to stop.  I have been ‘wasted’ a record one time. And it wasn’t on wine and I was well into my twenties (boring I know).

My question is not whether you started drinking as a toddler but what activity did you participate in as a child that is now frowned upon or considered risque? 


22 thoughts on “Trampling Grapes – A Childhood Memory

  1. What a great story, Yolanda! I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and trample grapes. I’m picturing the I Love Lucy episode right now. Did you ever see that?
    The only activity that comes to mind is riding my bike or my skateboard without a helmet.
    Thanks for a wonderful post! xo

  2. I think a little wine each day for a child teaches sensible awareness of alcohol – you don’t often see gangs of youths in France out to get bladdered like you unfortunately do here in the UK.
    I’m with Jill here – riding my bike from dawn till dusk with no mobile phone contact was the ultimate freedom – my parents knew I’d be home when I was hungry – far less anxiety around in those days!

    • I agree with you Jenny. If it’s with a meal we have always been ok with our sons drinking a little wine. They don’t see it as ‘forbidden fruit’ and so haven’t been tempted with excess. Science has gone on to prove that soda is far more detrimental to our health. I too, would only head home when hungry 😀 my how times have changed!

  3. My grandparents were German immigrants and drinking wasn’t so taboo. My grandfather made wine and although I don’t remember it (by the time I was born he had lost the farm in the depression) but my brothers have colorful memories of it. My Dad made wine from the wild cherry trees that grew in the fields in back of our house. Not a lot, just a barrel or two. I remember a foam or scum as part of the process. We were always allowed to taste wine or even beer as a child. None of us have a drinking problem. It does make for some fond memories. We had the tiniest jelly jar and that’s what they put my taste in. Not full of course.

    • Yes kate! the fermenting wine froths and you have to ladle it out (not sure how they do it nowadays). Cherry wine sounds divine! My granddads also made firewater from just about any vegetable! (Potatoes being a favourite) 😀

  4. I was a terribly tame child. Except we played in the woods on our own and I went off to visit friends in the neighborhood. In the news the other day was a report on a 6 & 10 year old sister and brother going off around town by themselves. People reported it, investigations of the parents were held. The boy of 10 found it ‘annoying’. The parents called it ‘free-range’ parenting. Jeesh, in the old days, you were encouraged to ‘go out and play.’ – it wasn’t a theory, it was just what you could do.

    • How sad Lynn that parents now have to defend their parenting styles as ‘free-range’ or whatever 😦 I mean kids are supposed to be outside. They’re supposed to be learning through play and exploration. They’re supposed to be getting muddy and dirty and into a ‘little trouble’ now and then. Playing in the woods sounds like the ultimate fun Lynn! 🙂 We grew up in the suburbs with views of skyscrapers. I used to wish we lived in the countryside.

  5. What great memories Yolanda and just shows that when something isn’t forbidden as a child it takes away the desire to abuse it. I don’t know that I did anything as a child that would be frowned upon now, but we did have so much more freedom then to ‘play out’ and go wherever we liked around the neighbourhood.

    • So true Andrea 🙂 There are ads now on tv reminding parents to let their children play outdoors because it’s good for them. It breaks my heart to think we, as a species, have distanced ourselves like this from nature and the ‘natural way’ of doing things.

  6. I was raised Brethren, Yolanda, and also my father had an alcoholic uncle, so there was no drinking AT ALL in our home. Which is not necessarily good, as it made it very tempting for us to drink with friends as we grew up and left for college. Too much or not a all; both have problems.

  7. Special memories Yolanda. We wrap our children up in cotton wool these days. I was only just telling mine about our trips to the river. Swinging off a rope and floating down river. Then running back to the rope and doing it all over again. Not able to do it now, too old and I think they have stopped people due to injuries and snags under the water, not to mention broken glass. I always wondered what that must be like to tread the grapes. It always looked like such fun. Also use to sneak a sip of my dads beer as a child, did not like the taste though. Not until I was older.

    • It is a pity that the world has evolved to this point where pollution and negligence mean our children can’t just jump into a lake or a river anymore. I know of many beaches where you just can’t walk barefoot 😦 needles, glass, etc…anyway have a happy week Kath 🙂

  8. Such lovely childhood memories Yolanda! Funny to think about that at one point in my teens I wanted to go to Italy or Spain to work at a vineyard over summer, but hélas my parents didn’t want me to go alone (couldn’t find a companion with the same interest at the time) Aaah, those were the days… just exploring the big wide world from dusk till dawn with our bikes, building camps in the woods. We were free, and wild .. and very dirty but oh so happy! and yes, I was allowed to ‘sip’ from time to time.. Not the same world anymore today. And later in my teens, on saturday nights I used to take the train to one of the big cities to go dancing with friends. I remember some of the alleys I took were really dark. To think about it now, I was fearless not to say reckless at the time but I was always alert of my surroundings. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t let her go alone today.

    • I would have gone with you Karin! 🙂 Sad to think how much times have changed 😦 yet in many ways it has become necessary although danger lurked in alleys even then 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s