Cocktails always and invariably remind me of my mom.
We’ve all been there. Childhood tv dinners (a dizzying indulgence for us), sneaking cashews from the polished silver nut dishes, hearing the high heeled sound of my mom coming down our wooden stairs, the rare, exotic smell of fresh nail polish, and the hush among us as her five wide-eyed children gazed in amazement at this beautiful creature.
Who this glamorous woman and where had she stashed my mother?
You see, on a typical day at home, she was just mom, in blue jeans, a t-shirt or one of my dad’s button-down shirts, barefoot or inexplicably sockless in the dead cold of winter. Laid back. Casual. She was not a fancy lady!
A plot twist found her, alongside the daily herding her five rugrat children, trailblazing (unthinkable for the time) through both her undergrad and Masters degrees in Archaeology. Dropping us at school, or ferrying us off to the bus stop, she’d hop in her car and dash off to college classes, home typically in time to make her fabulous spaghetti and share adventurous tales of her childhood while we sat on the kitchen counters ravenous for her nourishment.
As we got older, we took turns picking up my dad at the train station, grocery shopping and making dinner on the nights when my mom had late classes, invariably taking over laundry and mowing the lawn so that she could get her homework done.
My mom macheted her way through the mores of that housewifey era, championing the likes of Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda to form an impactful, remarkable life. Thus the paradox to my young observations, seeing my mom hanging out with hippie grad students Monday through Friday and transforming into a very chic movie star during the weekends of swirling cocktails and hosting dinner parties.
A fabulous cook and even better raconteur, the parties were infamous. Pop in any 60s or 70s movie and there’s your snapshot of the clothes, menu, soundtrack (can you say Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass?) and the array of rainbow confection spritzer drinks served, sloshed and sipped by my fab parents and their merry guests.
We stayed clustered in the study, huddling in front of our black and white tv, hiding from the bedazzled dinner party guests as they descended on our house for the riotous, cocktail-fueled evenings. Regales of laughter and the clink, clink, clink of glasses wafted us off to dreamland long after we’d switched off the television and found our way to bed.
Years on, our happy hours, and later, our grown children with my parents were a cherished indoctrination into adult life with Martinis, Manhattans, Gimlets and a ready tray of delicious and delightful nibbles. No rush of life, no incursion of troubles disrupted our little cocktail times together, letting the world just be, just for a while.
And the dress code? Come as you are.