Cheers to That! How a Dusty Bottle of Champagne Came to Represent a Father’s Love for Queer Son.

by Peter Pinto

So my name is Peter Pinto. I’m from Milford, Pennsylvania. 

I grew up in a very low income household. My parents were newlyweds, didn’t have a lot of money. We were on food stamps and WIC and all the things that people were back in the eighties. And grew up living in a trailer park. And it was, I always preface, it was one of the nice trailers. 

One day when I was like 10 or 11, my father brought home a bottle of champagne, a very large, impressive black bottle of champagne. And I remember him not bringing it inside. I remember it was fall or early winter, so we left it out on the porch. It just lived on the porch and it became a joke like, “Oh, there’s a bottle of champagne on the porch.”

And fast-forward to my freshman year of high school, my parents had saved up enough to actually buy a home. So we got this little house in Milford in the middle of the woods, really sweet, really lovely. My parents had enough left over from the down payment to renovate and built a room for my brother and I in what was the attic. And we moved in, got settled, and I’m thinking, now’s the perfect time for us to, during the housewarming, to open that weird bottle of champagne that was hiding on the porch. 

And my father said, “No, this is not the right time.”

I graduate high school, still not time. I moved to Manhattan, which is where I have been since 1999. And I moved to Manhattan for university. 

Some people have spectacular coming out stories. My coming out story was fairly boring. I mean, you know, because honestly, the only person I ever had to come out to was my mother. I was home for the summer from college. And I remember I was driving her home because at that point we were working in the same place.

I randomly brought it up and it was one of those things – it was kind of like a revelation for her. She was like, “Oh… yeah.” It became harder as I got older. So for her it became, “You’re gay and that’s fine, but what will my friends think of me?”

I graduate college. My brother actually graduates from high school the same year I graduate college. Another perfect time to open that weird bottle of champagne. 

“Nope,” my father said, “Nope.” And at this point, it’s gone from living in the porch of the trailer to living in the basement of my parents’ home, literally under the stairs, collecting dust, what have you.

Another perfect time to open that weird bottle of champagne. “Nope,” my father said.

We get to 2005, I’ve graduated. I have gone from being a performer to being a writer, and now I’m just a working fool in Manhattan doing theater when I can, how I want to. And I meet my husband, Joey. That was 2005. About a year and a half later, I asked him to marry me. He says yes. 

And then we kind of put it off. We were like, You know what? We’re going to do it when it feels right, when it’s legal, and when it’s right for everybody. So 2011 comes along and it’s made fully legal in New York. And we’re like, okay, now is the time. We’re like, okay, we got the license and we’re kind of sitting on it. And that year couldn’t afford to take a vacation, so we did a staycation. So it was a lot of stuff like a lot of visiting stores, antique shops, eating, what have you. 

And I said, “While we’re here, do you want to get married?” We literally planned nothing. We had the license already. We made the announcement on Facebook. Anybody who wants to come can come. The night before, I get a very strongly worded email from my mother, “How could you do this to me? What are you doing? Why? Why?” 

I’m like, “You can choose to be part of our life or not. It’s your choice. I will always love you no matter what your choice is.” Joey and I had our wedding. The very first thing we did was go down to City Hall with our chosen family and got married here in the city.

Fast-forward through the end of the year, we’re still living together. My mother, who up until this point had never … they had met Joey before. They knew we were married. My mother said, “You’re coming up for Thanksgiving. Why don’t you bring Joey?” 

And I said, “Are you okay with that?” 

And she said, “Absolutely.” 

And I said, “Okay, great. Fabulous.” We take the train, we get there. My parents have already met him, but this was a little bit more formal. This is the first time he had been invited to their home.

It’s Thanksgiving. I think we got there the day before. So we got to know, they basically got to know him, we sat around, had drinks and watched movies and went shopping. My parents were doing their best to get to know him. 

And the next day was Thanksgiving and we’re getting ready to eat dinner and we’re all sitting around the kitchen table and my father has filled the table up and we’re all serving ourselves and we’re literally getting ready to lift the forks. And my father said, “I knew I forgot something.” He disappears and we’re all just sitting there. We’re not even thinking anything of it. We’re, like, don’t even know what he’s thinking. Literally, even my mother’s like, “I don’t know what he’s doing.” 

My father comes up with that bottle of champagne, covered in dust, and he says, “This is what it was for.” And he takes a paper towel and he just wipes it down and he pops it. And we each get a glass and he’s like, “I’ve been saving this for this long. This is the day it needed to be opened.”

He was waiting all this time for that moment to happen. Maybe he didn’t know what he was holding it on for – holding on for it for – he might not have known! But it would feel right when it was the right moment.

Joey and I have been together for 18 years this past June, and my parents adore him and my little brother adores him and he is part of their family and… as much as I am a part of his on his side. So that bottle of champagne was meant for something and that’s what it was meant for.


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