Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: The Old Line State
How The Other Half Drinks
The Jameson Chronicles
Despite the generosity of my extended family, my mother always struggled financially. There were two options for school in town, the public high school, which was adequate, and a private academy which was far beyond our means. I knew some of the kids from Summer drama camp, and had developed a more than mild crush on one of them, Drew.
When he turned up at school at the beginning of senior year, it was if the heavens had parted and God had smiled down on me. I changed half my classes to be in the ones he was taking. I accidentally managed to near him as he got into his car; I was a serious student, and offered to lend him notes, and look over his papers. When he returned my interest, I callously dumped my steady boyfriend, David, who had steered me through some of the darkest times in my young life. The cold manner in which I did this haunts
me to this day; he did not deserve what I gave him. He was thoroughly kind, thoughtful, and dull.
Drew was everything my ex-boyfrind was not: Outgoing, handsome and rich. He was exciting and, to my mind, faintly dangerous. He had been expelled from the private school for what he mysteriously called "scandalous behavior". He had a car, he laughed at my jokes and shared my flair for drama. We were soon inseparable.
His people came from NorthSide, which boasted some of the most beautiful homes in New England. He lived in a turn of the century mansion that he called a cottage, which was surrounded by acres of manicured grounds. He liked to say he lived on a farm. His family's cabin in the woods turned out to be a spacious ski chalet in the mountains about an hour outside of town.
In contrast to my unruly uncles, no one in Drew's family greeted the day with a beer. Drinking was carefully choreographed; the ritual began by setting up an elaborate bar while waiting for the sun to cross the yardarm. Promptly at five o'clock Drew's father would preside over the mixing of the cocktails. Still handsome, though dissipated, his normally morose personality would light up
as the cocktail hour progressed. Drew's mother was a stern and proper woman who terrified me. She would warm, or defrost, as Drew called it, midway through dinner.
The cocktails varied with the seasons: Gin and Tonics in Summer, Hot Buttered Rum in the Winter, and Whiskey and Soda, Manhattans
or Old Fashioneds made with Jamesons Whiskey the rest of the year. Long ago there had been some family connection to the Jamesons, though no one ever took the time to explain to me. They had a cook who server dinner promptly at 6:30, which left plenty of time for what Drew termed cocktail management, and his parents called freshening the drinks, as if they might have grown stale in the few minutes since they were poured. His father freshened his drink by adding more whiskey, until the glass held only liquor and ice. His mother added more soda, starting when she was about 1/4 through the drink, until it was mostly soda and ice.
I once mentioned this to Drew, who murmured, "She's saving herself for wine with dinner." Every dinner was served with wine, on the weekends there were two or three different bottles to match each course; his family spent
an inordinant amount of time locating, tasting and storing wine, in contrast to my family, whose only stipulation was that beer be cold and in sufficient quantity. They has an extensive wine cellar; we used to filch wine from it for parties; Drew knew which wine was least likely to be missed. These were mostly sweet dessert wines, or Chardonnay which was sniffed at by his parents. Both of these more more than acceptable to my teenage palate, which had been honed on White Zinfandel and wine coolers.
By the end of dinner his parents were nodding and sleepy. His mother kept up the pretense of control, issuing confusing instructions to the patient cook, and ordering a big breakfast for 7:00 AM sharp that would never be served. We never had long to wait before they would be out cold, usually in their bedroom but occasionally in the den in front of the TV. We took the
opportunity to move to his room for several hours of hormonally charged activity before he took me home. I was dazzled by their lifestyle. Given the amount of drinking that went on in my own family, this felt normal, and far more genteel than the free-wheeling carnival of beer and cigarettes that defined evenings with my uncles. As I embraced Drew more and more, I also began the long romance that would define the rest of my life.