The summer my mom tried to become an alcoholic was just like any other summer. It was a Saturday morning, and it was time to go grocery shopping at the Alpha Beta. Maggy and I fought over who’d sit in the front seat, just like all the other times.
We fought over who’d push the grocery cart just like all the other times, too, following our mom who’d walk down the aisles intently studying her grocery list. Maggy and I crashed into things behind her.
There’s nothing particular about this day that stands out over any other day, until we rounded the corner, nearly knocking over the stand of tomato cans, to enter the alcoholic beverage aisle. This was an aisle previously traversed only to reach the Pepsi Cola, but this time, our mom instructed us to stop. Just stop. Right in front of the wine cooler section.
“Hold on now, while I make this life changing selection.”
“Mom, she kicked me again!”
“I said hold on! Quiet! For God’s sakes, can’t you see what I’m about to do? You’re driving me to drink!”
We stopped, frozen in the aisle, as we watched our mom’s eyes review the various brands. Were we really turning her into an alcoholic?
She put a four-pack of a pink, bubbly drink into the cart.
“Mom, you’re squishing my marshmallows!”
“I said shut up already!”
That night after dinner, as the sun was going down on Virgin Islands Court, our mom made the formal announcement that she needed her quiet time. She repeated herself three more times.
“I said I want it quiet! This is my time.”
As I stood in front of the fridge to get myself another Pepsi, I watched my mom sit at the end of the dining room table, empty glass in one hand, Bartles and James in the other, and pour herself a drink.
“Look at me. You drove me to this.”
She drank the whole thing, alternating each savored sip with a deep drag of her cigarette, head back, eyes closed. The stress left her lungs in smoke clouds, floating up to the ceiling.
Years later, I asked her why she never drank the other three, which still sat in the fridge untouched, and she said she got too distracted with mom things.