I felt cool knowing the proper ritual.
I grew up in a culture of alcohol. At the dinner table, dry chardonnay for mom and Absolut Vodka on the rocks for dad. After weekend chores it was cold beer. Over holidays it was beer during the game and wine with dinner. It was as much a part of our household routine as washing the dishes. I opened beer for dad and would pour mom a glass of wine. I made my first martini when I was 13.
My dad gave me my first beer when I was 12. We had just finished our day’s gardening chores. The intense afternoon heat of the summer sun made the air heady with earthy, mowed grass and sweet black mulch. I was dirty and tired and sweat soaked through my “AC/DC” t-shirt. I sat on the patio under the shade of a giant elm when dad came out with two Budweisers in hand. The cans were already sweating from the cold metal meeting the hot July air. To my surprise he handed me one with no warning or pretext. He popped his open and took a long drink.
I looked down at the tab—the old kind that you had to pull off completely. I snapped the loop and out rushed the whoosh of fizz. I had smelled the aroma of beer before but this was different. It was lighter and fresher. I pulled the tab completely off and dropped it inside the can (like I had seen Dad do numerous times). I felt cool knowing the proper ritual. My first sip was, well, intoxicating! Fizzy like soda, but dryer and cleaner. It tasted real. It tasted like adulthood.
Halfway through I felt a numbing warmth spread throughout my body. By the time I finished it I felt cool and relaxed. Then he got up and said, “Don’t tell your mother” and went into the house. It was our secret and I felt like I had just been admitted to the club.
The years that followed were peppered with similar indulgences—some parent sanctioned, some not so much. Trusting parents and an unlocked liquor cabinet are what good ’80s movies are made of. But never once before I was 21 was I disciplined for drinking. I got my ass chewed out for reeking of cigarette smoke. But drinking, as long as I wasn’t driving, was an unspoken “OK.”
Now I’m in my 40s and have two young kids of my own. And every night, without fail, I enjoy a deep, robust glass of red wine.