Working on a Christmas gift has led me to looking at old family photo albums, mainly from my grandma’s house. It’s the craziest thing – when I look at these photos I remember the moment with all of my senses. The way the dining room chairs felt, the smell of her garage, the taste of freshly made pancakes. I remember it all so vividly.
For instance, I have a very clear memory of childhood Christmases. Of walking down the stairs, into the basement, around the corner past the tv room and into the pantry. My grandma’s basement pantry was huge! Hidden behind a pink and white curtain, it housed jars and jars of canned vegetables (grown the previous summer), boxes of honey wafers for my aunt, and enough boxes of pasta to feed a small Italian army.
There was also a large deep freezer on one end of the room. One of those white ones with the door that opened up like a chest, with a chasm great enough that you’d have to dive in looking for things. Free floating, balancing on your stomach, feet up in the air.
Something that was always easy to find this time of year? A bucket of brandy slush. We had it at every family gathering around the holidays (or, quite possibly, any time of year). I remember my dad wanting another glass and me begging to got and get it. I remember the cool concrete floor under my socks, the scraping of the spoon shaving off bits of slush into his cup, struggling to fill the remaining space with soda. A big bottle always on the low shelf near the entrance of the pantry. Then making my way back upstairs, only after stealing a few sips.
This woman came into my life five years ago and has done nothing but brighten it and believe in me.
She is smart, hard working, gentle, and honest. She is strong and sure of herself in a way most people in their 20s are not (hey, yeah, that includes me).
Elise is also generous beyond measure. Last month, I had tickets to a show in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. Elise was headed back East to spend the holiday with her family. She made time to have dinner with me and leave her house key for the weekend so I had somewhere warm (and free) to stay before catching her flight, lugging her suitcase downtown all the way.
A few more things about Elise: she loves to knit, the show NCIS, the color pink, and delicious food. Her sense of style is impeccable and her family ties are strong. She is a skilled baker in her own right and loves soft pretzels and her dog with equal measure.
She is an original.
As is this drink.
Or, at least, it’s original to the steakhouse where I plied the bartender for the recipe. I’ll be taking her there tonight to celebrate this auspicious day. The day when the world was given the gift of Elise.