A Shot of Bailey's
Tonight I poured the last ounce and a half of Bailey's Irish Cream into one of our London shot glasses. Following my mother's belief in the medicinal effects of sipping liqueur (her choice is Sambuca), it seemed like a good choice to help ease my newly sore throat.
24 hours ago I felt completely healthy, and spent the day at work laughing and joking with my boss. But around 4pm, the annoying sneezing that had originally been attributed to allergies turned into full-blown coughing and nose-blowing. Half a roll of toilet paper and a box of Kleenex later, I stood in Jay's office door and asked for chicken noodle soup. Halfway through the second bowl I lost my sense of taste (number 1 Pet Peeve when dealing with colds, closely followed by the feeling that tissues have all morphed into sand paper). Every time I get a sinus cold there is at least one day of not being able to taste or smell a thing. Usually this leads to more soup or lots of tea drinking, but tonight I had the brilliant plan to have a cup of coffee strongly laced with Bailey's to wash down the Tylenol Sinus and throat lozenges. Now it's 10pm and I can't fall asleep...
So back to that shot of Bailey's.
I poured the last drop of last year's Christmas gift into the glass (my parents get me a bottle of this each year, which leads to many happy weekend mornings or evenings with a cup of Irish coffee (yes, just one) as I sit on the deck or curl up in my chair with a book) my mind pulled a rewind.
My parents were visiting from Canada, we'd just returned from an amazing holiday in Paris, and despite missing Jeremy I was in pretty high spirits. Finally I was getting to do all of the things we'd planned on doing: riding on the London Eye, visiting the Tower of London, buying things in the stalls on Portobello Road. I was trapped between vulnerability and excitement, sadness and joy - all at the same time. That April was a true study of contrasts, but as time goes by even the hard parts of that month are becoming easier to remember.
All three of us got sick during their visit.
My dad caught the cold first, then me, then finally my mom. It was a nasty one, pretty much as bad as a spring cold can get. Being in the UK meant that we could walk to the end of the block and choose from no less than 3 off-licenses, each selling either Sambucca or other flavoured treats that could sit in the back of your throat simultaneously soothing your mind and your scratchy throat. My mom was disappointed when we could only find the version of her favourite medicine, but we got a bottle anyway, each of us pouring a shot to sip while watching re-runs of Two and a Half Men on my laptop.
One of the things I loved about my neighbourhood was getting to become a regular in certain markets and shops. My favourite off-license (I will not admit to being a regular at buying their liquor or the 1 pound packs of McVitty's chocolate caramel cookies) was run by a family of men. They were all pretty friendly and when they heard that Mom was sad about not having black Sambucca, they ordered it for her, special. I'm sure she thought it she'd have to leave some of it behind, but we somehow managed to go through the entire bottle in less than 2 weeks. Blame it on that horrible cold if you want, but I have a different theory.
In England, drinking is a major part of every social gathering, whether it be a group of friends at a pub on Charing Cross Road, whiskey shots in a noisy bar, or a shared bottle of wine in a friend's back garden on a sunny afternoon. For the three of us, those shared shots of Sambuca (which I hate the taste of btw) become a nightly ritual that I complained about, but looked forward to at the same time.
Drinking stories used to be all about How Wasted We Got Last Night. Stories of wandering through forests to collect firewood, throwing up in bushes, singing in the streets, mixing rank tasting "shooters", staying up all night, or pretending to row a canoe down the middle a busy road (not my story to tell but yes, it was a real canoe) - all crazy things that have turned into pretty great memories. Our friends didn't drink as much as some of the other kids did, but we definitely had our fun.
In university, drinking became a sport: How Many Shots Can You Take? or Let's Get Drunk in the Pub before our 4th year Thesis exam and See if The Professors Notice! (They did. But the exam was worth 3% of our final grade and thankfully the professors were both pretty cool people. Apparently it was funny when my friend Loren mis-counted my grade twice while marking my paper, finally writing "Good work!" and handing it in for somebody else to figure out. Later they joked about measuring the effects of alcohol of certain people's test scores. Oh and if you're wondering, I got an 82.) Even Teacher's College was like that. Our section would go out once in awhile, hoping for a legendary night that we'd tell stories about years later. Headaches and sore feet in the morning warned us that we were getting a little too old for crazy bar nights, but we did it anyway.
Now many of my friends are Responsible Grown-ups with houses and mortgages and children. The days of watermelon bombs and jello shots have been replaced with card games, bottles of wine and a couple of mixed drinks. The nights of drinking and dancing for hours are few and far between.
I miss the way British people meet in their local every Friday afternoon to chat with friends and enjoy a bag of chips or game of pool before heading home. It's a sense of comradery, of getting together to celebrate the end of another work week. They're full of stories, so you can sit for hours just listening as you sip a pint and smile because there's nowhere else you'd rather be than with your friends. Despite varying levels of inebriation, those nights were not about the alcohol.
My life in Canada is completely different. I see my friends every other week, usually for coffee or a few hours at somebody's house. We laugh and talk and enjoy each other's company, but we're not part of each other's daily lives anymore. People get older, couple up and then make their own little worlds. Which is probably the way it's meant to be but a part of me misses the days when we were more involved in each other's lives. But we're growing up, and as we make our own families it's time to let go of the lives we used to lead.
So, with my last shot of Bailey's, I raise my glass to all of the friends who've come and gone from my life. To the high school adventures and crazy stories from university, to the people who've helped shape the person I've become. To those I'll never see again, but will also never forget. To the friends who've become family. To the times I should remember, but can't.
And to the clinking of glasses and good times that are still ahead.