“He is a Jew! No! You can not marry him! I forbid it!”
The pained expression on his daughter’s face struck hard in his heart. He could not bear to look at her, but he stood his ground – this was for her own good. He was ready for the fight that flared up in his daughter’s eyes. The presence of this young Jewish man touching his daughter fueled the fire ignited by finding them alone, speaking of marriage.
Maria could feel her father’s wounded pride and honor. She knew Caleb’s presence did nothing to ease the tension of their discovery in her Papa’s beloved vineyard, but this night was meant to be special, and she needed him right now. He was strong and wise – it would just have to be.
The golden moon illuminated three desperate people. The pungent unique aroma of ripe Muscadines hung heavy on the warm arid breeze as they were caught between past and present. Rows and rows of generations were held in the balance of love and hate.
“Papa! Papa! Look!” She cried as she swung her arm to embrace the magnificent view by moonlight. “Look!”
He continued to stare at Caleb – unwavering. Anger exposed on his face and in his quick breath.
The Manchez Vineyards will not be touched by anyone other than my own kind and my own faith. I will not ‘look.’
Desperation took hold of Maria’s heart as she dropped to the ground next to one of her Papa’s prized creations. With strong supple arms she took hold at the root of the plant and began a frenzied pull, oblivious to his shouts of shock.
Her father rushed to put his arms around her – to stop her, but years of harvest had made her body strong and healthy, and she knew what she was doing. He tightened his grip kneeling next to her in the damp earth, torn by her cries and groans as she struggled – as her labored breath spoke of roots, stock and scuppernonging.
He spoke softly as he did when she was a child waking from the fears of night. And she released her grip, limp with hopelessness.
Caleb stood … in silent prayer.
Maria once again swung her arm to encompass the vineyard looming over them, her breath still uneven – tears still streaming.
“Papa, Papa – please listen – listen to my heart. I ask you … look around! Even here… your finest accomplishment … something no one has been able to do. You have grafted Carlos – Italia … together. Two vines to create one. You have created new stock … for better grapes … and finer wine. And the rest – all grafted to make stronger stock. Scuppernonging Papa – remember?
My Caleb is strong and kind. And Papa – he has embraced the Son of his faith. The same Son we worship. The same God we pray to. The same salvation we have found! Trust me Papa!”
She reached for Caleb’s hand as she looked up to his loving face. He bent down to take it as he spoke, “Mr. Manchez, my family has denied me. You are about to deny Maria. Please tell us you will think about this situation before you deny us both. All we ask for right now is … time.”
Maria’s Papa did not like the feeling in the pit of his stomach, but the fiery hope that blazed in his daughter’s eyes stirred memories of her mother at that age. How the same fiery hope blazed back at her own Papa about him that many years ago. But … that was different.
He understood her childhood ‘scuppernonging’ remark, but that won’t stop him from finding a way around this matter. Until then, he would need time to speak to her mother to see if she knew anything about what had been going on under his roof. Somehow she knows … .
While shaking the earth from his pants he tore into Caleb’s eyes and said, “You can only see my daughter under my roof until I decide what is best. Come now into the house.”
Yes! Yes! Maria now knew what Mama meant! “Papa’s heart is as soft as lamb’s wool,” she had said. “He comes from strong stock, but bends in the tender breeze of love.”
As Papa waited for them to walk ahead, Maria knew their first battle had been won.
And tucked away, in the secret place of her heart she knew …
The rest was up to Mama! … Yes!
*Scuppernongs are what most white varieties of Muscadines are referred to, so I used the word Scuppernonging as an affectionate term for grafting. Muscadines do not graft well with other species of grapes.
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