As the summer draws to a close, I look back at the previous year. To start off, it was my freshman year of high school. Freshman year is a big step. No longer a child but how a "freshy" or "fresh meat." As you walk down the halls, it's a strange world. Things are different. More responsibility but also the feeling that people are just trying to get by. It starts with all the usual questions of "How was your summer?" or "Goin' to the game tonight?" Once everyone gets into the groove of going to school, things get back to normal, and we all remember the fact that we have 182 days of bittersweet school to go through.
For me, this year was going to be different. Instead of doing football like I have done for the past five years, I decided to invest my time in rowing crew. It was a hard decision because I know how much my dad liked to play football. To be honest though, I've never met a more fun loving group of people or experienced anything like crew before. This would become the pinnacle of my year. As I got up at 7 in the morning to go to practice or leave school early to go to a race hundreds of miles away, it was exciting. Every calorie and drip of sweat that I put into rowing came back to me as experiences I will never forget. My plan is to be a captain my senior year, and as long as I row the remaining years of high school, I see no obstacle in my way.
Months passed, as did Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom and I spent Christmas in California with my Aunt Janie and her family. During the winter, school got harder and my grades started to slip. I spent more time at practice rowing than I did in my room studying. Midterms approached and the stress built up and up. This was the downfall of my freshman year. Because of this, my spring break was at home rather than with Aunt Janie and my cousins visiting Florida.
Additional months passed and soon it was May. My last crew race took place later in the month, about three hours away. I can still remember staying up all night listening to music, joking around, and just hanging out in our hotel room. In hindsight, staying up till 4 in the morning, eating sour patch kids and listening to Third Eye Blind didn’t prepare us as much as sleeping 8 hours would have. We woke up at six in the morning with an intense banging at the door, “Get up, get up, get down the stairs!” Still half asleep, we grabbed our clothes and duffel bags and shuffled down to the lobby. Coffee didn’t help anybody and we all thought of closing our eyes. “Listen up!” Our coach read off our seat numbers for the race and we soon boarded the bus.
The air was damp and dew soaked our shoes as we unloaded our shells (boats) and walked them to our tent. Five hours later, when we finally rowed out onto Lake Erie, getting ready for our turn to race. The weather was unbearable. It was a stark contrast to the morning. Weather left my mind as all eight of us sat waiting for the startling shot. We waited moments that felt like hours. Then the command came with such clarity “ROW!” We rushed up the slide, moving the flat water with such force that the entire shell started forward. First place right off the bat, with three other boats trailing us, trying to catch up. Hundreds of meters away from the starting point, the sharp crackle of the coxswain cut through the air. “Power ten in two, all the pressure!” Our hearts sank. We were “sprinting” the last four hundred meters, a tall order since we were in second place, and already exhausted. We steadily made our way up, about four meters away from taking first, but we all grew tired and the distance was running out quickly. As the last ten meters closed, we accepted defeat but still took pride in knowing we held second place. We won silver medals and, to this day, the silver medal sits on my desk. But that was a somber moment because that was the last race we had. The season was technically over. After the banquet, that would be the last time we would see everybody for a while.
As the year drew to a close, a wave of relief swept over everybody. My last week at home was filled with four grad parties and seeing as many friends as humanly possible before I left to be with my Aunt for two months. This was the real start of summer for me. The unreal possibility of summer was finally tangible and yet it would all end too soon. When I finally pulled into my Aunt’s driveway in California, I was greeted by smiles and hugs all around by my cousins Emily and Ryan. Two weeks of swimming, watching Psych, and seeing family was what I needed to replenish the infinite amount of boredom I suffered at school. We were bound for Oregon for the 4th of July. The clean air, view of the “valley,” and the always interrupting deer squawkers, reminded me of home. We celebrated our fourth with a tradition of the Saint Paul Rodeo, where I got kissed by the rodeo princesses. The next night, I enjoyed a massive fireworks show at a good family friend’s house and lit bottle rockets our of Brooks Riesling bottles.
Two weeks later, I started working a little bit for a friend of my father’s named Tad. I sorted wood, unloaded a pickup truck and bottled wine for him. As I was handed my paycheck, we left for our annual San Diego trip. Everybody filled their days with sun tanning, swimming and more sun tanning. Before that week, I don’t think I’d ever had a real tan. We returned to Oregon and it was back to work but this time at Brooks. In two days, we bottled 3,500 cases of 2010 Runaway Red and Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
My vacation in Oregon was filled with two more weeks. The International Pinot Noir Celebration loomed upon our return and my days were filled with activities and dinners. One of the events was organized by the sixth grade teacher of my dad and Aunt Janie. She brought a large group of educators from around the country to Brooks. It was a fun group. Right afterward, we went to the Salmon Bake, a massive dinner marking the end of IPNC. I remember going to the Salmon Bake with my dad. The night was filled with eating and then more eating, as well as seeing friends whom I haven’t seen in a very long time. That night also marked the end of my summer in Oregon.
When I got home, I was wrapped in the arms of my mother. We went home to pack for my trip to Krakow, Poland where my mom is from and where I was born. We were going to see my grandparents and my mom’s sisters’ family. I spent a lot of time with my Uncle and cousins as we traveled, shopped and saw all the attractions one forgets about in four years. We saw my grandparents and spent much of our time together as a family. It was wonderful. It is such a different lifestyle in Poland and I enjoyed it so much. Being around them made me feel like the son or brother they never had.
Our two weeks came to a swift end as our time ran out. My mother and I boarded the uncomfortable, crowded plane surrounded by people speaking foreign languages. We came home to a sweltering, humid atmosphere that gave the impersonation of some far off East Asian country rather than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My last week before the new bittersweet school ordeal began was filled with conditioning with crew buddies, reading and enjoying the waning freedom.
Finally the dreaded day came, filled with scheduling questions, friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, and the torturous idea that 181 more days of school await me. Today, two weeks in, the feeling is the same. It feels like you’ve been there for an eternity but only two weeks has passed. My life now consists of crew practice, homework, school, friends and trying to enjoy oneself with what little spare time can be scrounged up. The thought of summer is eclipsed by the daily troubles of school, although my grades are much improved this year. Occasionally, I remember the good times of summer and that gives me some hope that it will happen again, some 170 days from now.
Thank you for reading and being a great supporter of Brooks!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2009 Janus recommended
by the SF Chronicle!
Click here to purchase!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GREAT HONORS!!
Double Gold Awards for 2008 Rastaban and 2008 Ara Riesling!!