At the small plot of land in the village where the girl lived, a spry, 84-year-old woman with sharp eyes and wild hair greeted us as she steadied herself on a gnarled cane.
“This is my grandmother,” said the girl. The old woman took turns hugging each of us, as if we were long lost family. Then the girl’s mother and father came out and led us inside, insisting we stay for a tapas-style dinner. Almost everything was raised, grown, or made in the village: eggs, honey, bread, relishes, pickled tomatoes, wine, and clear liquor. We crowded around a low living- room table under a large, Persian-style rug hanging on the wall.
We talked about our lives and drank to friendship. The family insisted that we spend the night but we declined.
“Then one more thing before you go,” said the girl. “Come.”
She and her father led us into the cellar, where stores of pickled vegetables filled one shelf and massive glass jugs stood on another. Her father prepared a liter of homemade wine for each of us, siphoning the red liquid. Then he filled small glass jars with relish. Finally, he handed each couple a small, ceramic dish.
“Please,” said the girl. “A special gift. From Georgia.”
Russ Juskalian can be reached at email@example.com.