Actually, the vineyard across the street is being ripped out today, so I am beginning my blog by writing about the vineyard across the street. I have had a relationship with that vineyard for 31 years. When I moved into this house and town, the vineyard was live and healthy, providing grapes for the Redemptorist priests who lived in St. Mary’s Seminary, a boarding school for high school boys. Since that time, the seminary has closed and and the building has reopened as Mercyhurst North East. However, the vines always remained.
The first year, I was awakened in the wee hours of a warm August morning right before the first day of school to their thick sweet aroma. I raced to the vineyard in my bare feet to taste the sweet grapes, but, alas, they were very sour. As a newcomer, I did not know that grapes do not ripen until the end of September even though they look thoroughly ripe. I also did not know that one should wear shoes in the vineyard because old vines are chopped in early spring and tilled into the ground. Those small pieces of vine litter the rows and do havoc to the soles of one’s bare feet.
Through the years, I have had a great time taking photos of the various seasons grapes must pass through to flourish. I have inhaled their glorious aroma and have made some delicious jellies from their fruitful vines thanks to the priests who gave me permission to cut a basket of these sweet Concords.
As they fall, vine by vine under the hand of a trimmer, I am sad because these are the symbol of my town, where the Grape Picker is the school mascot and where we supply hundreds of tons of grapes each fall to Welch’s for juice and jams that travel around the World.
These glorious grapes also signaled the coming first day of school each year, because I knew once I smelled that first sweet aroma of the season, I would be packing my teacher satchel and head off to teach those wonderful Grape Pickers how to write. Although I am retired from the school, I still wait for the aroma to tell me school bells are ready to ring.
As my blog grows, I will share some wonderful things about this town that make it such a great place to live and grow and some of my favorite memories of teaching.