Always Keep a Bottle of Champagne in the Fridge

We prepare for catastrophe. Do we prepare for celebration?

Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström, CC BY 2.0.

Last October my husband was running errands and I asked him to pick me up a bottle of champagne. I told him nothing fancy, just something a touch nicer then the $5 bottles we usually pop for mimosas and general imbibing. He brought me a home a $14.99 bottle of champagne with a silver foil top and a European-sounding name and asked me what the special occasion was. I said I didn’t know, but I thought something good was coming around the corner and I wanted to be ready for it. Then I carefully placed it in the back of the fridge.

The next week my husband lost his job.

Like an earthquake, job loss starts with an epicenter—the individual is called into a meeting at an unusual time of day—and spreads out from ground zero in waves of phone calls. I knew something was off when his caller ID showed up on my phone. The timing wasn’t right. My fears were confirmed by the timbre of his voice and the aftershocks continued as the news spread to loved ones. After the world stops shaking, the silence is deafening.

Shocked silence gives way to adrenaline-fueled emergency services. First, I added my husband to my workplace health insurance. Then we surveyed the changes necessary for the budget. We had been saving aggressively for months, both for emergencies and to finally fund our retirement accounts and our hopes of starting a family. If we put our extra savings, discretionary purchases, and dreams on hold—and if he expanded his hours on his side gig—we could hold back the financial bleeding to a net loss of $650 a month not including other unexpected expenses like vet bills or car repairs (both of which came up during this time period).

Watching your savings shrink by $650+ a month is a scary feeling, especially when the work put into building them is so recently seared into your memory. We figured we had enough in savings to last several months and my husband wouldn’t have to take the first job offered to him. As my husband worked through the stages of grief, he came out determined to find a job that would pay him what he was worth and set out to double or triple his income. I worked to be a supportive partner by calling on every single supportive friend and family member to check in with him and keep his spirits up because frankly, I also was struggling with the emotional burden and couldn’t do it alone.

As our fridge grew emptier I found myself staring at that stupid bottle of champagne with the silver foil top, collecting dust behind the leftover beans and rice containers. At first I resented that damn bottle. I felt like what had been purchased as a harbinger of hope and celebration had actually brought a curse on my household. I felt like it was the champagne’s fault when my husband made it to Stage Ten of a twelve-stage, twelve-week interview process before being knocked out of the running. I felt like it was the champagne’s fault that he had to start expanding his search beyond the town that had become our cherished home. When my husband helpfully pointed out we could just drink the bottle and be done with it I told him “No way! We will persevere despite the champagne.” Turns out I was working through my own stages of grief.

Eventually I learned to accept the bottle of champagne. Not just as an inanimate object, but also for the reason I had originally asked my husband to buy it. Inside my empty fridge was a $14.99 bottle of hope. We would open it when something good happened, and just because I didn’t know what good thing was coming didn’t mean I didn’t want to be prepared.

Five months later, my husband finally found a job—with interesting work, great mentors and leadership, and awesome benefits and a raise. After he signed the offer we popped the cork of that champagne bottle and drank every last drop.

The job involved relocating out of state, which put my employment situation in question. After seeing how several months spent living on a reduced income lead to an exciting opportunity for my husband, I decided to take a couple months of my own and see if I could succeed going into business for myself. It’s still early but things have been going well. We have a new bottle of champagne in the fridge.

Meg Renninger is an entrepreneur in Texas. She will be drawing her first paycheck this month. She still prefers $5 champagne.

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