Sometimes, life keeps surprising you.

Dear Friends,

I kept a secret from you.  I apologize for being deceptive in any way, but I was too nervous, too insecure, too scared to share it because I didn’t want to disappoint you yet again.

The Court of Master Sommeliers, the group I have so desperately been trying to join, has started a new competition called Top Somm.  It is a contest to become the best sommelier in America.  The process began in late Fall when we applied over the internet to compete.  We were given a date of Saturday, January 23rd, where we would get on line at precisely 12:00 noon to take a written exam deeming 10 people worthy in each region to compete in person.

I was chosen as one of the top 10 contestants in the southeast region, and Saturday, April 10th at the Breakers was my given date and location.  The irony being the date was my birthday, as well as having to leave husband and family once again to possibly be disappointed because in this event, there is only one winner.

So, forgive me, for not telling you about the competition, but it was for the sake of not having to go through an emotional roller coaster of having to tell my friends, family and readers that I did not come out on top.

My exam began yesterday at 8:00 a.m. when a most difficult written exam of 31 questions was issued to each contestant.  Absolutely absurd, if you must know.  Questions about Greece, Romania, Hungary and even, North Carolina, for God’s sake. (on a side note, I was extremely thankful for the question on North Carolina).  It wasn’t a gimme test for me nor was it an embarrassment, but by golly, it was hard, and I felt a bit defeated after I handed it back to our judges.

Blind tasting was next:  Italian Pinot Grigio, Austrian Gruner Veltliner from the Wachau at Smaragd quality, Clare Valley Riesling, Barossa Grenache, Morey St. Denis 2005 and Walla Walla Syrah.  Final answer.  No, I went back to the Barossa Grenache and changed my answer to Rioja Gran Reserva.

Left the exam and felt like I was successful.   Was I?  I will never know.  I will never find out the wines we tasted.

Last section of the exam was service.  Service, I love.  It went well, and I enjoyed the challenge.  Was I a rock star?  Not really.  BUT, I had a good time, and I got into the idea of making others happy.  In the end, I left having no idea of the results, but I did feel good about the process.

At 4:30 p.m., we reconvened to find out the winners.  Life being totally crazy, my name was called out as the winner.  Yes, now I get to go to the finals and compete as the Southeast’s candidate against four others who made it this far.

What could be better?  I didn’t really know until approximately 24 hours later.

Flashback to January 2000:  my lifelong childhood friend who would always be someone I felt close to came back to Tarboro to be with her mother as she battled cancer.  Before I moved to California, I stopped by my friend’s mother’s home to say hello and good-bye to Cookie, the woman whom I had known my whole life as my mother’s childhood friend and my childhood friend’s mother.  A couple of weeks later, I was informed that Cookie had gone to another place to live a much better life.

I didn’t come back to Tarboro for the funeral nor did I act as the best friend to Anna.  Instead, I continued life as I knew it, and I didn’t think of those who were really suffering.

After September 11th, 2001, I became a different person.  I was much more reclusive, and I didn’t have much to say.  If I did say something, it didn’t make much sense to me.

I remember walking along the upper east side one cold Autumn afternoon after work and seeing an eastern North Carolina area code on my cell phone.  I answered it, and I heard Anna’s voice on the other line.  Her voice was so soothing.  It was so tranquil.  It was so healing.  I knew in an instant how much she was hurting–if there was anyone who loved their mother, it was her.  Her voice let me know I was not alone.  Her voice let me know I could get through this sickening time.  And, of course, her voice made me believe in God because she was calling me when I had not been calling her.

Needless to say, Anna and I became closer and closer as the years progressed.  She has no reason to look up to me, but I have every reason to look up to her.  She is a wonderful mother, an amazing wife and a hard worker.

Come back to today’s present, April 11th, 2010:  I have flown back from Florida after a whirlwind trip and an exhausting flight.  I am on cloud nine because life doesn’t get much better than winning, does it?  My husband and children welcome me with open arms, and the world seems absolutely perfect.

And then, there is Anna.  She is there with me, with darling children in hand.  We talk, we laugh, we even get pulled over at a license check point.  The afternoon is ending, and I truly believe life is at its grandest–hometown, family and being a champion….and then.

And then, Anna asks me to be her son’s godmother.

Anna asks me to be her son’s godmother.

Someone believes that I am good enough of a person to raise their child in case anything happens to them.  Someone believes in me to love their child like they do.

Nothing, my friends, is better than that.

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