The Stirring

I would be home from school pretending to be doing my homework when I would hear the garage door open and the sound of my father’s car crawling into the space beside my mother’s. The hinges on the back door would creak like all the others in our 1950’s split-level, and my father would tap his way down the stairs to our kitchen-dining room. After planting a hello peck on my cheek, he would plop the mail on the kitchen counter, loosen his tie and swing the suit jacket he’d worn all day at the office over the back of a chair. I always knew what was coming next; his trek to the utility room.


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… but my father’s reason for opening the door was to visit the nook of tall metal shelving that displayed his army of liquor bottles standing at attention, each one a different shape and color.”

The furnace and the ironing board were enclosed in that room, out of the sight of guests, but my father’s reason for opening the door was to visit the nook of tall metal shelving that displayed his army of liquor bottles standing at attention, each one a different shape and color. I imagined him contemplating his soldiers: Would this be a day for a martini, or a scotch and soda? Or maybe a Rob Roy, or a gimlet? My father was sadly bereft of all knowledge related to ingredients that might go into a casserole. He wouldn’t even know where to find a cookbook. But when it came to bartending skills and crafting his evening potion, he was a master mixologist.

Having made his choice of spirits, he’d return to the kitchen, his muscular fingers wrapped firmly around the necks of the bottles, and place them on the kitchen table with barely audible taps. He’d unscrew each cap, with metal scraping against glass, and stand it next to its corresponding bottle. Soon, spicy aromas would waft across the room and find their way to my nose; I might wrinkle up to the sharp smell of Jack Daniel’s or open my nostrils to the light scent of a lime segment getting ready to land in a gin and tonic.

Placing a highball glass on the table, my father was ready to mix his brew. I could see him bent over sideways to get a snail’s eye view of the glass and its contents, pouring the liquids with such great care that he might have been preparing a life-saving nutriment, where one extra drop would spoil it. Then, the ice cubes lifted from our dispenser would sink heavily to the bottom of the glass, ready for several trips back and forth on the tip of his index finger. The final check came when he held his glass up to the ebbing light at our kitchen window to examine the results. Yes, it was ready for consumption. Carefully watching my father mix his daily beverage with such loving attention gave new meaning to the expression, nursing a drink.

Ruth Sterlin is a psychotherapist specializing in early attachment and family relationships. She is also a published author of several articles in her field, but for the past several years she has changed her writing focus to personal essay and memoir.
Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2015.

2 thoughts on “The Stirring

  1. This is a wonderful spirited (pardon the pun) piece. Short descriptive funny and a loving remembrance of a father and his daily routine. My dad had a bar in the basement; he wasn’t into mixing drinks but he was most fond of the glasses arrayed on his bar shelf with the message “name your poison.”

    Thank you Ruth Sterlin.

  2. This piece is a magical capture of a moment in time. Every detail counts and every metaphor works. With an amazingly small number of words, Sterlin conveys a great deal about her father: not just his care and attention to a task that matters to him but also his lack of interest in other domestic tasks, and the long day of work that precedes and requires the respite of a perfect drink. In addition she conveys the importance of her own presence at this ritual–clearly a ritual of great sociability in which he dad gracefully includes her.

    A perfect drink, and a perfect piece of writing.

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