Pie’s Letter to Mom
By Louise Wilkinson
I’ve been meaning to write but you know all too well how time flies and things happen. Today is July 4th and, although there is lots we could do today, it’s a bit slower pace than a work day. I hope to catch you up on a few things. I feel like I have been neglectful on how much things have changed here in the past sixteen years.
I know you probably have learned a lot of what’s going on, but I still wanted to fill you in from my perspective. Jobs have been a bit harder to find this year; it seems every family has someone with reduced hours or a job loss. People are taking summer jobs that in past years would have gone to the youth just out of high school. In the past, you and I always had more work than we could handle once Memorial Day arrived. I remember each summer, you would take on a new task to help us make it through the leaner winters. But in the summer of 1972, when I came home from college, I believed you had really gone off when you described the job you had agreed to take on. Do you remember?
You said you had met a woman, named Louisa Hargrave and she had grapes that you and she would be picking and turning into wine. The summer before, I had come home to meet a bunch of hippies, who were going to make clothes to sell in a shop in Greenport. After I spent some time with them, I knew that was not for us. While we admired most of their ideals, freedoms and life styles, that group was not true to much of anything except themselves. So I looked forward to meeting this Louisa Hargrave who grew grapes, with doubts and trepidation. Well, you know how that went and what a wonderful woman she truly was for you and the area. It was also great to have her son in school with your grandson, Bill, many years later. I know you and she shared stories and joys in regard to raising children and grandchildren and it being harder to raise babies than any of the grapes. I know you would get up and pick in the early early hours of the summer days arriving at the field at first light. It seemed to be much the same as the first job you found for me, picking strawberries for Mrs. Sawicki. But you were reaching up instead of bending down.
You would be amazed to see the number of wineries that have encompassed the area. All the potato fields and most of the corn fields have funny, little trellis like stands to hold the winding, green vines. I see them and often thing of Mr. Fiore’s small grape arbor next door to our house in Southold. I still have the photograph of you and Gracie snoozing in the coolest area of the neighborhood, under that vine covered arbor. Although, he only made his wine for his own church service, he was thirty years before Louisa.
The names of the wineries are comical and not at all reflective of theNorth Forkthat you would remember. Thousands and thousands of people come from everywhere to “tour” the different wineries, although I guess watching grapes growing was not something I had considered a priority as a vacation escape. Each of the wineries profess to be a little different and a lot better than the one down the road. By the way, that same strawberry field that I picked is now a winery which purports to be a Women’s Winery. We stopped in there about a year ago to chat. While none of the jobs we had were easy for us, now they have huge machines to gather the fruit and then sort it, wash it and send it to the vats. The technology has lessened the hard work. Strange as it seems, I have gone on a few tours.
Upislanders have also taken to booking weddings at some of the halls, called tasting rooms, that have been built in the middle of the fields. They have all sorts of catered events, parties and fundraisers. The industry is flourishing with over fifty wineries on theNorth Forkalone.