"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Who Came Before You

Christmas is a season of traditions. One of the oldest ones in our family is making Brandy Alexanders on Christmas Eve. Our father, decked out in his wool trousers, suspenders, and a bow tie, sets out the cordial glasses from the china cabinet and lines them up on the counter. Then he gets out the blender, the booze from the liquor cabinet, ice cream, and the old fashioned ice cream scoop. The formula is two parts brandy to one part Crème De Cacao with enough vanilla ice cream to fill the blender. Once the mixture is creamy and frothed, he pours it into the glasses and then, lastly, sprinkles a dash of nutmeg on the top of each one. (What we've been taught is the final essential step.)

The first time I was ever offered an alcoholic drink while growing up was on Christmas Eve, a sip from the bottom of a cup. And then at the age of seventeen or so I was presented with my own glass. It was a moment to be remembered, a drink to be savored with the aroma of nutmeg and the bite of brandy filling the senses, and with the fragile stem of the glass between my fingers, I felt like I was joining the adult world.

Three nights ago we repeated the tradition. Though his fingers are now swollen with arthritis and he walks with a cane, Dad scooped out the ice cream and poured the measures of liquor and brandy into the blender and then filled the glasses. But he forgot the nutmeg. We passed it around, each adding our own.

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