The 45th Day of March

During the COVID-19 pandemic, having ones health and family is reason enough to celebrate

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AS I WRAPPED UP my first trip to Australia, my cousins George and John dutifully reminded me to pick up some local wine to bring home. While perusing the wine shop, one of them — it was a long time ago and they’re twins, for crying out loud — suggested I buy a “cleanskin,” a wine without the usual brand label on it, which Australian wineries often do when they have excess supply and don’t want to devalue it by selling it under their brand name at a lower price. I grabbed a 2009 cabernet, its office-printer label hastily secured with a bit of tape, and bought it for AUS$10, then brought it home, promising myself I’d save it for a special occasion.

Over the next seven years, I’d occasionally glance over at our wine rack, looking to open up a bottle for a birthday, an anniversary, a new job or some other celebration. I’d see the cleanskin and think, “Today’s a special day, but perhaps not special enough,” then crack open whatever else was available, letting the dust accumulate on the Australian red for another year or two. I wasn’t exactly sure what type of occasion I was waiting for, but for whatever reason, nothing we’d done or experienced over those intervening years rose to the level of being Special Enough.

FAST FORWARD to the 45th Day of March 2020, the Month That Will Never End. The cabernet cleanskin that I carried halfway around the world nearly eight years earlier was still sitting in my wine rack, awaiting its special occasion. Apart from the occasional grocery run in my industrial-grade gas mask or taking our dog to the animal hospital, I hadn’t left our house in more than six weeks. We’re all frustrated and irritable. Distance learning for the kids that never seems to go right, running low on various supplies, our dog passing away, getting on each other’s nerves, cabin fever: each day is a slog of anxiety and boredom, blurring together, endless, dispiriting, numbing.

And then I look at the wine rack and see the cleanskin that the Aussie Carvins suggested I buy before departing Sydney back in 2012.

There’s nothing special about the 45th Day of March. There’s little, if anything, to celebrate. And yet we’re still here, and for the moment, healthy. We’re fortunate to have a roof over our heads and privileged enough to have jobs that allow us to work from home. The flowers are in bloom, the songbirds have returned to our back yard, our neighbors say hello from a safe distance to see if we’re okay or need anything.

I open the cleanskin cabernet and we celebrate.

It tastes like the liquid rubies I’d always dreamed it would.

Written by

Asper visiting professor, UBC School of Journalism. Former Sr Editor-At-Large at NowThis & founder of reported.ly. Author of the book Distant Witness. NPR alum.

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