It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Milk shakes and red wine as tender loving care

As a youngster, my siblings and I lived in a small town in the coal mining region of southeastern Utah. Our nightly entertainment was radio programs like The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. We also read books, solved 500 piece jigsaw puzzles, and played Gin Rummy. On Saturday afternoon, we wolfed down freshly, buttered popcorn while transfixed by movie westerns with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and, for the real old time trivia buff, Gabby Hayes and Wallace Beery.

Outside, in good weather, we explored the surrounding semi-desert countryside, or played “Cowboys and Indians,” “Marbles,” or "Mumbly Peg." At nightfall, nothing created more shrieking and mock trauma than “Hide and Seek.” When it snowed, we built bulbous snowmen, pummeled each other with  snowballs, and took eye popping belly sleigh rides down the nearby, not so gentle slopes. It was pure Norman Rockwell stuff.

And, of course, all those stressing activities brought with them the inevitable sore throat, high temperatures, or some other bed-confining ailment that required aspirins, mentholated chest rubs, and a little TLC. Tender Loving Care came in different forms—a steaming bowl of homemade chicken broth, a long tender embrace on Mama’s lap or another therapy that lingers most vividly in my emotional hard drives.

My father would close his tiny shoe shine parlor, cross the street to the corner “soda fountain,” order a thick, chocolate malted milk shake, and then, brown paper bag in hand, trek the mile or so home to present his personal version of Tender Loving Care. Just the sight of the waxy Dixie Cup container coming out of the paper bag lifted my mood immediately, and after just a few draws on the straw, my temperature seemed to drop in synch with the level of the milk shake. Recovery was well under way long before the bottom of the Dixie Cup was visible.

I recently spoke on the phone with my brother Stan, who, with his wife Lee, provided our aged mother a first class, heroic version of 24-hour care-giving for the last six years of her life. What brought the above Utah recollections to mind was my conversation with Stan about their dinner nights with Mama. Each night they served her a little wine with dinner—not much, maybe an ounce or two, but just enough to make dinnertime a little special. And just as chocolate, rather than vanilla, was my therapy of preference, red wine—not white—seemed to deliver the requisite impact for her. Pretty good palate I’d say.

In any case, that dinner ritual was Tender Loving Care at its finest, and those few ounces effectively delivered much more than their basic purpose. They lifted her spirits, ensured that she would eat, reminded her of the sacramental aspects of wine, and overall, including aiding digestion, probably did more good than many medications.

It’s interesting how a few of life’s necessities like food and drink can occasionally create a mindset and reaction that exceeds the properties of the underlying ingredients. That milk shake was far more than liquefied ice cream—it had magical, restorative powers. So too with those few ounces of red wine for my Mother. Both became, in a very real sense, far more than mere beverages. Special moments like that can happen—not very often—but they can happen.  Here's hoping you have a few of them in the coming New Year.


  1. TOMMY,
    Your recent posting brought back so many memories of my childhood. The one I remember the most was the Saturday afternoons when two neighbor- hood boys and me in the prone position staring at the radio listening to "Inersanctom", (sp) and "The Shadow". "Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men, the Shadow knows!" and a sinister laugh would follow.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. Dear Helga and Tom,

    Just read Tom's latest and really enjoyed it. We also wish you "special moments"and good health.

    Love Ingrid and Jack

  3. Milk Shakes and Red Wine" is a lovely memory. You reminded me that my milkshake was bread cubes and milk with powdered sugar served with love in a flowered pink bowl.

    Happy New Year dear Tom and Helga,

  4. Very nice----reflections as the year draws down. Good work!

  5. I need a shake tonight.....

  6. Tom,

    Very nice New Year's article, brings back a lot of good memories.


  7. Warm memories of a simpler time are a great pleasure. Thanks for the good reminder.


  8. Fantastic!! What memories you brought back!! I must ask our children what their memories are of TLC when youngsters...It will be fun to see what they say!

  9. Thank you All for your comments! I'm thrilled that you're reading it, and even more delighted that you took the time to comment.


  10. Tom,Thank you for sharing that wonderful story about your family. Wishing you and Helga and your family the best of New Years.Hope to see you when the weather improves for a game of golf.

    Best regards,Len

  11. Thanks for all the wonderful articles about wine and other good things. I really enjoyed your latest on Milk Shakes and Red Wine. Takes me back to my radio days.
    Wishing you and Helga a Healthy and Happy New Year. Hoping to get together soon. We miss you both.

    Love and Kisses,

    Doreen and Martin

  12. What terrific insight into how food isn't just food within relationships. Thanks for such a nice article to start 2011 - and a good reminder to look for those opportunities within our own families.

    Best wishes in 2011,