Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Drinking The Poison"

Thinking back on my English pub experiences (See: Yesterday) reminded me of a drinking story dating from the same era that involved my mother.

I had not known my mother to be much of a drinker. In fact, I had never witnessed her drinking anything.

Then, one day, everything changed.

While living in London, I came home once for a visit, landing in New York City on my way back to Toronto. My mother met me in New York, and immediately took me to buy clothes she could stomach seeing me wear. When the wardrobe shopping was over, we went out to a restaurant for lunch.

I’m twenty-two years old. I have reached the legal drinking age, plus I had partaken of “bitter” (room temperature English beer) every night at The Horse And Groom for months. My mother, however, has never seen me drink.

We order lunch. Along with my lunch, I bon vivantishly request a frosty glass of American beer. The waiter returns with an ice-cold lager in a tall, tapering glass, setting it down directly in front of me. Excited by the prospect of a beer that is actually cold, I pick up the glass, and I draw it to my lips.

I am hardly oblivious to the moment, or, more appropriately, the “moment.” For the very first time, ever, Earl Raymond Pomerantz will be imbibing an alcoholic beverage in front of his mother.

As I’m about to enjoy my first sip, my mother, who since I’d ordered the drink had said nothing, breaks her silence.

“You know,” she says, with a studied nonchalance, “I haven’t tasted beer in maybe twenty-five years. Let me have a little sip.”

I hesitate, confused. My mother, whom I have never once seen drinking beer, suddenly wants a taste of my beer. Then I think, maybe this is her idea of how this “moment” is supposed to play out.

Rite of passage. Mother and sonny-boy. Sharing a beer.

Okay, then. “Milestone moment.” Here we go.

I pass the beer over to my mother. She takes the glass, raises it to her lips, and she starts to drink.

And drink.

And drink.

And drink.

And drink.

I’m looking at her. Watching this thing happen. My eyes are getting bigger. As I sit there, witnessing my Jewish mother, downing the beer in one long uninterrupted chug.

Until, finally…

She drains my glass of its very last drop.

She then places the now totally empty glass back in front of me, punctuating her actions with a nod, and a single reverberating word:

“Good.”

Only later did I realize the meaning of the event that had just occurred.

Gertrude Pomerantz had fulfilled her maternal obligation.

She has swallowed the poison for her son.
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I want to thank those who took the time to congratulate me on my first anniversary. I also want to thank the people who meant to, but didn't. You're my kind of people.

Another "Thank you" goes to those who shared their "conversation stoppers" with me. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one whose smooth progress is occasionally derailed by strangers. Special kudos to the commenter who told the "dead horse" story. Material like that - with me - you can't lose.

Questions and comments always welcome. And if you want to hear back, try talktoearl@gmail.com.

2 comments:

A. Buck Short said...

As we Jews from Texas like to say, “Chhhhhhhhhowdy!” And has anybody got a napkin? My wife Laura doesn’t drink, unless, of course, there is some sort of a blessing involved to be administered. And even then only in moderation. This is why she was always a cheap date. Unfortunately this is also why she was never an easy date. I keep telling her if she would condescend to just imbibe a little, I wouldn’t have to still drink so much just to muster the will to try to get “lucky.” I realize there is some risk involved. We have been married over 30 years and she got pregnant both times.

I am new to your blog and don’t have the luxury of going back over an entire year of archival observations any time soon, but I would be interested in corollaries to this particular episode -- things your mom might have done or said in your youth to try to get you to eat or drink something you would have rather not.

Joe said...

I'm in that third group:

I would have congratulated you on your 1st Anniversary, but I wasn't paying attention.