Theoden Janes

First day of school? These moms will drink to that

From left, Elena Bowen, Lou Bohland and Heather Cromwell enjoy a mimosa at Grapevine Wine Bar after seeing their kids off for the first day of school in Fort Mill on Monday morning.
From left, Elena Bowen, Lou Bohland and Heather Cromwell enjoy a mimosa at Grapevine Wine Bar after seeing their kids off for the first day of school in Fort Mill on Monday morning. tjanes@charlotteobserver.com

It’s the first day of the fall semester for Fort Mill Schools, so naturally, Elena Bowen has a glass of prosecco in her hand.

So does Liz McBride. And Lori Glasco and Tricia Oakes. And Heather Cromwell, and Lou Bohland, and more than 100 other women who have filled every table inside Baxter Village’s Grapevine Wine Bar, every stool at its crescent bar, every bistro chair on its patio.

This is how certain moms roll in this small slice of South Carolina, which is to say: On the first day of school, they roll out of bed, they get their kids rolling off to school, then they roll over (mostly on foot) to Market Street for the Grapevine’s annual Moms & Mimosas Back to School Celebration.

For Monday’s event, owners Dave and Melanie Sills bought several gallons of pear, peach, orange, mango and pomegranate juice, plus enough blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and peaches to start their own fruit stand.

Oh, and 180 bottles of Nua Brut Prosecco.

The first cork is popped before 8 a.m. By 9, dozens of bottles have already clinked their way into the recycling bin.

Each mom, upon arrival, is handed a lanyard with a card lined with six little pictures of mimosas; every time a staffer fills their glass with bubbly, a hole gets punched. $5 a pop. Top it with a selection of juices and fruits.

“I added strawberries, peaches and raspberries – to make sure I get my antioxidants – and a tiny bit of orange juice, just to make people think that I added juice to it,” says Liz McBride, smiling, as she sips her first mimosa not long after walking her youngest child to Orchard Park Elementary a few blocks away.

The Grapevine’s vibe feels like the vibe during happy hour on a Saturday afternoon at any of a number of places in Baxter Village. Except if you walk back up toward Highway 160, the patios at Family Sports Pub, The 5th Quarter, Dirty Martini Lounge and Akahana Asian Bistro are all empty.

And if you look at the sky, the sun is only a few notches up off the horizon, but it’s in the eastern sky, not to the west.

These also aren’t your typical happy-hour conversations. Much of the gossip is about who’s got what teachers, after-school activities, nut allergies, the rising cost of backpacks, how the traffic caused by carpool lines is insane right now because nobody knows what they’re doing or where they’re supposed to go.

“I cried on the way here, just for a second,” says Lori Glasco, reflecting on her newly minted kindergartener while enjoying her first libation. “How do these people who send their children off to college deal with that? Because I just dropped my kid off at school and I’m gonna see him in a few hours, and I’m already struggling.”

(She seems to be struggling less a little later, when – all smiles – she brings another glass of bubbly to the fruit and juice bar.)

Dave and Melanie Sills started hosting this event six years ago, when maybe a dozen moms showed up.

“Then each year, it’s kind of grown – somebody brought two more friends and then somebody told somebody else about it,” Dave Sills says, as he hands staffer Marie Oskins a fresh bottle of O.J. to put out. “Thirty people said last year they were coming; 80 or 90 came. Almost 120 on Facebook said they’re coming today, so I haven’t got a clue what to expect.”

For stay-at-home moms who spent the summer entertaining housefuls of children, it’s a celebration of sorts: The first time in months that they’ve had social interaction with other adults without a kid hanging on their leg.

But there are working moms here, too.

First-timer Tricia Oakes’s youngest finally is a kindergartener at Orchard Park, so her freedom from parenting responsibilities finally coincides with Moms & Mimosas.

“I was always very jealous of the people that were able to come up here,” Oakes says.

Across the patio, Elena Bowen – who has just seen her 10th and 12th graders off – is on drink No. 2, keeping pace with friends Heather Cromwell and Lou Bohland. All three of them have made this an annual tradition three years running (partly because it’s also an excuse to celebrate Bowen’s birthday, which is Tuesday); all three put in for the day off ahead of time.

“The family knows,” Bohland says, “that we’re gonna make a day of it.”

“Yeah, there aren’t going to be fresh-baked cookies for my kids when they get home from school today,” says the birthday girl, laughing.

Then Cromwell adds the kicker, with a smile: “Come back at about 2 o’clock, and you’ll get a whole different story from us.”

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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