The house has five fireplaces, but the one in the second parlor is special. It is an old house, more or less circa 1811. We think parts of it are older. Parts of it are newer. It is my family’s ancestral farmhouse, situated in southern Maryland. It’s not on the Eastern Shore, but since we’ve been there for more than 200 years, I’d say we have deep Maryland roots.
Many things happened in front of that old fireplace. I played with dolls and dogs there as a kid. We learned to start a fire there with Grandpa. We kept an eye on Millie, my grandmother, who would sit & rock next to that fire thinking of who-knows-what. As an adult, I can better imagine what she thought of. Probably worried about. Reminisced, grieved, and hopefully comforted by many, many memories at that ancient place.
One memory that will always be with me is… a drink with my dad. Of course, there was more than one, in more than one way. We drank together quite a few times over the years, and sometimes, more than one drink.
Like so many things, you remember the first time the most. I won’t mention my age. It was one of those winter evenings. It was snow-blanket quiet. When you can hear the quiet. Not much going on, so I thought I’d find Grandma’s rocking chair by the fire and snuggle in.
I walked in the room, and there was dad. He was staring at the fire, still & quiet. He startled me, but I didn’t seem to startle him. Lost in thought. Like Grandma.
I hesitated, but he invited me in. I stood next to him in front the fire. He had one hand in his pocket, the other holding the usual crystal glass of “brown water”. Referred to in this household as “the water of life”.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We stood quietly together. He just simply said, “I’d like to sit and have a drink with you, my girl.” He fixed me a small drink. No ice, one finger. Handed it to me and said “Drink slowly. Like life, it’s something to be savored.” I sat, sipped, and said nothing. He was a man of few words but when he spoke, you listened. Like his father. So, it didn’t surprise me at first that he said nothing. But then still nothing. He sat in silence for way too long. I started to think something was wrong. I was, however, enthralled and enchanted. My dad worked long hours, was always busy, and didn’t have much time to spend with my sister or me. He looked at me and simply said, “You girls are my greatest love, my greatest worth. You hold my heart in your hands. Always be… just you, as you are. You are a perfect reflection of this family, of who we are.” Since we can trace our roots back to the 1600s in Maryland, I took this very seriously. It took me years, however, to truly realize what he meant, and how special that was to hear.
I lost him way too early, he died at age 49. He didn’t get to see much at all of how my life turned out. I do know one thing for sure – I knew he loved me, just as I am, which is one of the greatest gifts a parent could give.
The drink of choice was always Bourbon and to this day, it’s still mine.