I was a child bartender. That smiling girl with the funky collar knew how to make a Manhattan. I could have used it as a talent for Show and Tell. Rolled into class with a bar cart. It was the 70s. I was hardly exceptional. Many of my classmates knew how to crack a beer and fill a shot glass.
The clink of the bottles in the cabinet. In the hour before dinner. The conviviality in the living room when family first came together — light and friendly. The way they looked at me when I brought their drink. Being part of them.
Sometimes I'd get the maraschino. My chubby fingers would fish it from between slippery spent ice cubes at the bottom of the lowball glass. The cherry cured in Red 40-dye had an amber hue from sopping up rye or bourbon. It tasted like the magic kingdom.
On the corkscrew spiral of my beautiful DNA is a spot marked for alcoholism. At 31, I did something about it. I quit the day before Dia de los Muertos. Life is poetry.
I got help through a program and maintain a modest commitment still. This does not make me "so fucking special." If done right, it has the opposite effect. I'm aware of how human I am — in good and bad ways.
Because I was a cook and loved restaurants, I learned to be gracious at the table and on social occasions — I did not want to be an outsider. Like the cocktails before family dinner, alcohol brings great pleasure to many. Abstinence does not equal aversion. And now there are so many things for me to drink that taste like belonging.
Saying more about recovery sounds like I've got it all wrapped up. And I'm not even close.
I celebrate choosing life in late October. It's been tenuous at times. But I want it, still.
I've always liked a shag haircut. Even at that age I had acute anxiety about being fat. Shame was a constant companion. Now all I see is the girl who loved food with blue eyes and a bright smile.
Billy Preston's been filling my heart this week. That suit. Those moves. The horn section. Ray Charles grooving at the piano. Chuck had a few of his albums. The sound of my childhood.
1967 (The Ed Sullivan Show)