Life is full of little magical moments. Just those little moments of “I’ve never been here before” or “I will never be here again”. Some are almost like rites of passage.
Content Warning: This post will contain numerous references to alcohol. Friends of Bill, you might want to skip it.
When I was 16, I gave my dad some money to go to the liquor store to get my grandpa a Christmas gift for me. I don’t know if I’d handed dad enough cash or if he shelled out the difference, but he bought a bottle of Glenlivet. I think it was a 12 year. That is a pretty decent Scotch whisky for those not familiar with such things. Not super expensive. But far from rotgut swill.
Grandpa lit up when he unwrapped the box. If he’d smiled any wider, his ears would have fallen off. He thanks me and says he’s going to save it for a special occasion. Then he looks at his watch and says “The next special occasion is scheduled in about 5 minutes.”
I didn’t know it, but I was about to experience a magical moment.
We finish opening gifts and grandpa goes over to the little dry bar they had in the basement family room. He grabs some glasses and calls my dad over. Then he calls me over. Grandma gave him a disapproving look but didn’t say anything. Dad just grinned. Then grandpa explains to me that this is a good whisky. Not to be slammed down like a shot. But to be savored and experienced.
Looking back, I had no idea what was really happening. I had no idea of the ripples that moment would send through the rest of my life. My first drink. The love of whisky that moment created in me. Although, I do have a preference for Bourbon over Scotch.
A passing of the torch…
A few short days ago, I got to experience another one of those moments. My daughter got married. And for some reason they decided to have me officiate. OK, I can do that…. It was a small ceremony with only a few people in attendance. We did stream it over Twitch, but the fucking landscapers across the street… (deep breath Dave)
All of the people in attendance were from my chosen family. Not related by blood. But family nonetheless. That isn’t just an empty platitude either. If I have good news to share, they hear it first. If I am low and need support, they are the ones I call. My brother Nick, my sister Kim, and Kim’s 3 daughters. A few members of my chosen family were unable to attend and they were sorely missed. But there wasn’t a person there I wouldn’t take a bullet for.
After we got back to my place, I thought there was only one thing left. I never leave the house without a pocketknife. And the first time I held my daughter, I had a knife in my pocket. The day I performed the ceremony in which my daughter started the next chapter of her life, I had that same knife in my pocket.
I’ll be brutally honest here, I’d kind of planned on it. But I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go through with it. However, after everybody got settled in I decided to bite the bullet. I stood up and asked for quiet. That didn’t work. So… “Hey, SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR A MINUTE”. That worked.
A brief aside: I don’t believe in the concept of step family or in-law. You’re family or your not. There is no room for qualifier phrases in my vocabulary. And the designation of “family” is earned.
So, I call my new son over. Obviously these are people who know me, because at least one person started recording. I explained to Robbie about carrying the same knife on both days. And then I took it out of my pocket and handed it to him. “It is yours now. Take good care of it.” You could have heard a pin drop.
The tradition continues.
Same day. Same people. Another magical moment.
Nick is like me. He’s a whisky lover. I don’t think it would be innaccurate to say he loves whisky even more than I do. Or at least his obsession runs deeper than mine. I usually have a bottle or two of decent stuff on hand. He has a fairly extensive collection.
He was telling me about a single malt he had in the car. A Speyside scotch that is finished in chardonnay barrels. Again, I’m not a big scotch guy. But the description had my attention. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the bottle ended up not being in the car anymore. It’s like 11:30am and Nick and I are standing in my kitchen drinking whisky. Que a disapproving look from my wife. But only a halfhearted one.
As we’re standing there comparing notes on this absolutely wonderful whisky, my new son walks past. A look passes between Nick and myself. One special occasion coming right up. “Hey, get your ass in here.” Now I know how my old man and my grandpa felt that Christmas.
But it isn’t all booze
Not all “magic moments” come when we’re anticipating them. And they aren’t always fantastical and profound. They can be momentous and earth shattering. Or they can seem mundane until viewed through the lens of hindsight.
Think about your best friend. Can you remember the first time you said hello to them? In that moment, did you think for even an instant that your life was about to change? But change it did.
The truth is, more often than not, we don’t see them coming. They zip right past unnoticed until later. And if you don’t think they are happening to you, I would challenge you to look closer.