I recall being in the front seat in the middle, safe between my parents, air rushing in through open windows. An adventure.
I also remember the view from the back seat, where I had the whole seat to lie flat on my back and watch the world fly by through the rear windows. Even thinking of that view sends me into a visceral memory of travel, which is different when one is a child because no planning is required, no organization of luggage or tickets or driving. You are home and then you are on the way to being somewhere new. It was the purest sense of going to a place I have ever experienced. In the back seat of a moving car, safe, expectant, waiting to get to wherever it was we were going.
On the way to the beach we drove by fields of blueberries. I remember being driven down a long driveway, past big trees and white farmhouses, and maybe barns with horses. Climbing out of the back seat with bare feet, short legs and chubby toes, feeling the white sandy soil underneath. We stopped on the way to and from the beach to pick blueberries.
Back then they were in little wooden boxes and they weren't in grocery stores every day of the year. They were warm from the sun, fat, indigo blue, the perfect size to eat in one bite, and then another bite, for that soft burst of blue inside one's mouth.
Fast forward many years to me now, eating dinner at my favorite restaurant, Ashten's in Southern Pines, perusing the dessert menu and seeing this: Childress Starbound Blueberry Port (NC). The first time I ordered it I was sitting on one of their dining sofas in the pub side of the restaurant, surrounded by foxhunting decor and the sounds of many conversations layering around me. The first sip made me think of blueberry picking and sandy feet and sitting upright in the back seat of a moving car with salty air rushing in through the windows and blue-stained fingers. My own pint of blueberries.
Since that first glass of blueberry port I have had many more there at Ashten's, and then one visit the menu had been updated and the blueberry port was gone. I vowed to locate my own bottle but couldn't remember the name, then time passed, then I forgot.
Last week I emailed our neighborhood asking if anyone wanted to go to the local wine shop, VINO, for their Friday night wine tasting. I'd visited in search of a bottle of wine for my brother's 50th birthday and signed up for the mailing list, urged by the owner to come on a Friday night and try some wines.
While waiting to hear back from neighbors, the wine shop's newsletter email came, announcing this past Friday's tasting would center around ports. My eyes moved down the list of ports to be sampled, and there it was: Childress Starbound Blueberry. I read further and learned that our neighbor the wine rep was going to be one of the pourers that night, so I quickly emailed and learned that yes, he is the one repping the Childress. How funny that since Ashten's stopped serving the blueberry port I had a source literally right across the lane!
At the pouring I learned that the Childress Starbound is made from blueberries in one very special blueberry field in Burgaw, North Carolina, and that it has been made from those blueberries for years and years and years. Burgaw is the town we drove through on our way to the beach, and for all I know, some of the blueberries we picked and ate over the years of summer beach trips came from that very farm and field.
I had a taste and with great glee I bought a bottle. Our neighbor assured me he can get it anytime. "I can leave it in your mailbox," he said. And what I thought right then was how things connect: blueberries in the back seat of a car on the way to the beach, discovering a beloved restaurant and then a tiny glass of dessert wine, a chance visit to a wine shop that led to a tasting that led to another tiny glass and now a full precious bottle with the assurance of more when needed.
Somehow all this time I never focused much on the name - Starbound - and now that too feels like something meaningful, naming the journey, what it means to take a sip of something sweet and being transported back in time, a treasure found, and lost for awhile, and found again.