I’ll never forget the first time I met Rachel. It was the Spring of 2017 and we both were accompanying our respective partners, members of the tight knit agave spirits world, to Candelaria Yegole, a remote village nestled in the Oaxacan countryside that also happened to be the home of the late Don Aquilino, a renowned mezcal maestro.
After meeting in the center of town, the four of us crammed into the Jeep of Rachel’s partner. I gripped my seatbelt as he expertly hugged the rugged roads through each and every hairpin turn on the side of the mountain. When we arrived two hours later, I’ll never forget how the sharp smell of red clay and fermenting agave immediately grounded me, dissipating my motion sickness and shaky legs. Rachel and I spent that day together mostly quiet, listening to Don Aquilino speak of his love for his craft—that slow, poetic, and effortful process whereby agave takes on a new life in the spirit of mezcal.
It was in those moments that Rachel and I began one of those hard-to-come-by friendships, immediately knowing and full of depth despite the fact that we were complete strangers. We met one last time on that trip. Rachel and I grabbed a coffee at an outdoor cafe followed by lunch, where we laughed over a bottle of wine. Then, we parted ways.
I could have never predicted that when she and I met just a few weeks ago, so much life would have passed in the three short years from when we last parted, tipsy and carefree in the warm Mexican sunshine. And yet, despite the pandemic, the illness, the birth and death of loved ones, the career changes, the relocations—despite all of it—we, like all kindred spirits, were able to pick up where we left off.
In this inaugural episode of “the Things We Carry” series, Rachel tells us a bit about her grandmother’s charm bracelet and how the weight of this magnificent piece of personal history is a reminder to cherish, treasure, and protect the stories of the ones we love. During even the darkest of times, let us carry their memories as a guiding light.
“The Things We Carry” is an audio series produced by Supriya Kotagal Wheat. It chronicles our relationship with beloved objects, heirlooms, and talisman. The name of the series is inspired, in part, by Tim O’Brien’s “the Things They Carried,” a series of short stories about American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.