It all started with my new job.
We were responsible for the marketing for a wine festival, then the fourth largest in the country. I started that job only days before the event and barely knew what was expected of me, let alone what was the protocol at a wine tasting. One of the agency’s account executives taught me about sipping the wine, swirling it around in my mouth and spitting it back. That’s the proper thing to do at a wine tasting. It’s also a little unseemly.
Each of the guests, and the publicity team members were all guests, was given a hand-painted pewter winestopper and a small bottle of Pinot Grigios. What happened to the wine I’ve long forgotten, but that stopper started my bottlestopper collection, and what a collection it is.
There are only ten, but each is a work of art. Or not — a few are very commercial. But the rest are made of finest crystal, hand-spun glass or, like the first, pewter. They are beautiful.
The second stopper I added to my collection was another hand-painted pewter piece my mom had received as a gift from a man she briefly dated. It’s the only one that’s been used. After that, I went to craft fairs, specialty shops and most recently, Pier One, to find the latest addition.
There’s the Map of the World, bought with a friend visiting me from overseas. The two made of Murano blown glass, given by different friends in the same year. The leaf I bought with my friend Karen.
The Versaci Medusa Head crystal stopper is the showpiece of my collection. My mom gave it to me years ago, and I treasure it. She also gave me the Arkansas Razorbacks souvenir bottle stopper for the other end of the class spectrum (it has none).
For years I searched for a way to display them, and finally my mom found a bottlestopper display rack, which she gave me a few Christmases ago. Or for my birthday. I forget exactly. It took awhile to find the space to set the whole thing up, but finally, I have it.
It reminds me of better times, of lost and lasting friendships, of challenges that seemed overwhelming yet were inevitably overcome. People who might otherwise be forgotten are brought to mind, and I smile at the memory.
The irony, although it will help preserve these pieces, is I rarely, if ever, drink wine, or any other alcohol, for that matter. But I love the stoppers.
Collections tell stories. They are worth more than their pieces. They are our history.