I love a great glass of red wine on a crisp autumn evening. Or the perfect Pimms Cup to celebrate the beginning of summer. It’s so easy to feel ever so elegant with a crisp gin and tonic shaken and served (with fresh lime juice) in a martini glass. And on those weekend mornings when I’m not racing off to work or shuttling my daughter to dance class, there’s pleasure in shaking some Sambuca into my morning coffee.

Despite the absolute luxury of kicking back with a calculated cocktail, I have an uneasy relationship with alcohol. We cannot spend too much time together.

My father was, as they say, a big drinker. Small in stature, the drink made him seem larger. To my sister and I growing up (for our other two siblings had long ago left home) Christmas had a pit of your stomach quality. Cases of beer, bottles of dark rum, Baby some-kind-of-animal-sparkling wine; the clinking of bottles in the kitchen signaled the beginning of an uneasy holiday break.

Hey, we all have our stuff, mine just happened to be a drinking dad…with a Mr. (Holiday) Hyde personality.

Our elementary school was across the street, and every year on a cold December afternoon, while my Mom was working, he would amble across to attend the Christmas concert. Back then, every assembly began by singing the national anthem. My Dad, hand on his heart, would bellow Oh Canada like it was the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Christmas Pageant time at All Saints Church? We’d march down the aisle as two of the three bed sheet clad Kings, nervously glancing up, traveling afar. He took pleasure in pointing out the historical inaccuracies of our 1970s nativity tale. OUT LOUD!

Christmas Eve, we’d climb into our new (always staticy) flannel PJs and prepare for another Family Christmas Film sequel. Eyes blinded by the bar of lights that screwed into the top of our Super 8 Camera, we’d careen down the hallway clutching stockings. Despite the fact these were silent movies, ours was a musical. His tenor, like an impatient Shepard’s, would lead us … “Christmas Eve so dark and cloud-eeeeeee.”

Christmas morning he was always stubbornly slow to rise, head aching from the all night toy assembling and rum drinking.

He learned to drink in the Navy, enlisting at 15 to fight in “The War.” That meant he never finished high school…a soul ache that undoubtedly fueled his need to escape.

And to overachieve. He’d make us spell every big word we used, quizzed us on the meaning of new words, and pushed us to use them. Our unusual vocabularies cemented our freak status in elementary school.

When he wasn’t drinking there was a calm, a softened heart that encouraged you to approach. But when the spell was cast with holiday cheer and Dumarier cigarettes, ridicule ruled our house.

My sister and I would open our presents, pose for the camera, then scurry away to play dolls and read books.

I am setting up Christmas decorations now, surprised how easily the smell of pine boughs trigger memory. Some traditions, like the musical Family movies, I have jettisoned. We hang stockings, light candles and prepare to acknowledge this most ancient of times, when out of darkness comes the light. Treasures and truths wrapped in layers of compassion. I will never sign up as a teen to fight a war, will never see what he saw, will never be a small man longing for something bigger.

Despite the love of classic cocktails and scotch, there is a long born unease about alcohol. Does everyone wonder about that line? And how easy it would be to step over it? I want my daughter to embrace the holidays with open arms, an open heart, never having to worry that Mommy won’t be able to get out of bed Christmas morning.

Ahhh, the dark and the light this time of year. It’s there on so many levels.


Home made eggnog (with or without the booze)

To make one serving you will need:

I large fresh egg

I cup 2% or homo milk

½ tsp pure vanilla

dash salt

one tablespoon fine sugar

NOW: Crack egg into blender. Mix just a bit.

Add other ingredients, except for the rum (if using)

Blend until frothy

Pour over ice in beautiful glasses. If adding rum, pour in and mix.