This is Part One of a short series on growing up around alcohol.
Alcohol was, and still is, part of the social fabric of the Virgin Islands. It's cheaper to buy a fifth of rum than a gallon of milk.
My parents kept alcohol in our home. My grandmother's guest house at Trunk Bay and later at Lillie Maho had fully stocked bars. When we were little my sister, Erva, and I were allowed to drink a liqueur glass of wine for special occasions, like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Sometimes if my parents were visiting friends in the evening and I got whiny Mom would slip me a small amount of beer so I'd go to sleep.
One time, when I was about six, we were at a party and I got a fish bone stuck in my throat. I grabbed my father's drink -- which I thought was water -- and chugged it down. It turned out to be rum on the rocks. I don't remember a thing after grabbing his drink. And, strange to say, since then I've never been all that fond of rum. Though I do like a good pina colada every great once in a while.
When my father won the Fourth of July boat race in our speedy little boat the FDO (Father's Day Off) he got a case of Schaefer Beer. (See, even Lucille Ball advertised for Schaefer.) And speaking of the Fourth, at least once, those in charge of the fireworks got so drunk and excited that they shot them off on the 3rd. But this can be forgiven because the 3rd is Emancipation Day, the day the slaves won their freedom from Denmark.
For many, many years there was an elderly gentleman who, when he got to the right level of drunkenness, would put his bottle of beer on his head and dance, with or without music. I can't remember that bottle ever falling from his head.
The availability of alcohol in my life had it's good and bad sides. The bad side is that with liquor being cheap, alcoholism is prevalent and I can spot an alcoholic with relative ease. The good side is, because I saw responsible drinking in our home and because we were allowed to drink small amounts, neither my sister or I ever had the need or desire to go out, drink and/or get drunk with our peers, something I saw happen on more than one occasion.
Did you grow up with alcohol in the home? Next Monday...Bars.