Having Italian immigrants as parents in Napa Valley practically meant that I grew up in a vineyard. This fact used to make a lot of kids in high school go, “Wow! You must have tasted wine so young!” Others would say, “It must have been awesome to spend your childhood days seeing grapevines on end.”
The reality was that I used to hate living in my family’s vineyard. My parents both worked hard too much, so they expected nothing less from their kids. As soon as we could hold stuff firmly in our hands, they would begin to provide chores in and out of the house.
Well, all my five brothers were fabulous with digging the soil, carting grapes to and from the plantation, and even running around the entire vineyard to ensure that all the sprinklers were running. Boys would always be boys, and the work was nothing but fun for them, especially if they were doing it together. In my case, though, I loved my Barbies too much and longed for the day when I could live in Malibu.
Leaving The Vineyard
My brothers went on to take up degrees that were related to running the vineyard more successfully. Mom and dad never egged them on to do that – they did it because they loved the place too much. Of course, their decisions delighted our parents, and they thought of creating a small empire out of it.
When I entered high school, everyone expected me to think of the vineyard like my brothers. They said that I was a woman, so the job of a wine sommelier would be perfect for me. However, what my family did not seem to get was that I wanted to do nothing with our vineyard. To my parent’s surprise, I decided to study Fine Arts at UCLA.
While my brothers managed to study online, I had to leave the vineyard and get an apartment close to the campus. Mom and dad tried to talk me out of it subtly, but I told them that that’s what I wanted, so they shut up. I genuinely felt like I had been in the vineyard for too long and needed to see the outside world for myself.
Gaining Independence And Problems
Attending UCLA as an aspiring artist gave me more freedom than I ever imagined. I only lived for a semester at an apartment that my parents got for me because I eventually met a group of students who invited me to live with them in a mansion. Little did I know, that’s the beginning of all my problems.
It was fun to get to know strangers and stay under the same roof as them. I thought that those Fine Arts students were the most remarkable people I would ever know. But then, as our relationship got deeper, I realized that they had been doing questionable things that they did not show me initially on purpose (perhaps to lure me into their circle better).
You see, my newfound friends happened to grow marijuana in one of the many rooms in that mansion. I never asked about that room before, but I happened to come upon it during a party that we threw. Though the pots of growing weeds filling the room surprised me, I went back to the party – but only to get more surprised when I saw my friends selling and using weed with the guests.
Watching what’s happening in my supposedly new home sobered me up. I had to ask my friends the day after about it, and they practically told me that it was cool and that their weed business was funding the mansion that we all lived in. Then, they asked me to do something crazy: sell it.
That was the fastest I packed my bags, hopped in my car, and fled to the only place I ever knew: our family vineyard.
Going Back To My Roots
My short experience with weed dealers and users was enough to traumatize me. As soon as I reached the vineyard, I cried to my mom about it as I felt both scared and shocked. She consoled me as best as possible, but I could not shake off my anxiety and fear for days.
One morning, I woke up earlier than everyone and found myself walking towards the vineyard. It was a harvesting season, so all the vines were filled with grapes. Walking among them helped me remember the simplicity of my life before I tried to uproot myself.
I did not see how fortunate I was to live in such a vast and prosperous land in my rebellious phase. Those kids who assumed that I had a fantastic childhood were not far from the truth – it was genuinely great to be able to roam around the vineyard without worrying about incoming cars or strangers. There was nothing that the vineyard could not provide, but I still found a reason to despise it for many years.
Suddenly, I felt ashamed of myself for how I treated the only place where I could be myself. And in a time of uncertainty, it remained the only place where I could find solace. I took a deep breath and decided to get counseling to be worthy of living in the vineyard.