Saturday, December 11, 2010

Drunken tongues tell no lies

I was 13 when I learned that alcohol could be a dark and dangerous thing.

Some context - I grew up around social drinking - it was not a big deal and today I love great red wine. But there is one drink I cannot tolerate the smell of and that is gin.

My memory of the day is as clear as a bell. My mother and I went to visit my grandmother for lunch – this was a year after my grandfather had died. My grandmother was a brilliant woman, Cambridge educated but frustrated by the roles she had had to play in life as the daughter of a Yorkshire vicar of a good family and a wife of the Raj. Today she would have had a career of her own but in her generation she had not broken out and the years of frustration had built up.

She was lonely, angry and bitter and she had been drinking. Neat gin. Lunch started out seemingly fine but as the meal went on she went on the attack. Vicious, cruel attacks at my mother and her abilities, attacks about my father, his background, and his motivations in marrying my mother. My mother would have been 40 – younger than I am now – facing this diatribe in front of her 13 year old daughter. And not surprisingly she broke down.

I grew up in that moment. I remember standing up, thanking my grandmother for lunch and telling my mother we were leaving. She was scared and crying but I grabbed her hand and she followed me. I walked her to the car and to this day I remember the lunch hitting me on the back of my head as she threw it after me. I was shaking but determined as I told my mother we were leaving. Now. And lamb chops have never had much appeal since.

Probably not the first time I took over, but the first time I remember taking over for a "grown up".

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