To clarify, I mean new memories, not making new family members. Though more babies are born in September than any other month (note: that’s approximately nine months from now), so I guess ’tis the season. But nobody involved in this story is planning on that immediately, so we’ll stick with new memories.
First off, happy holidays, everyone! I hope you had/are having/will have a great one! This post was inspired by our family Christmas yesterday.
There’s some family history here, so bear with me. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, got a bottle of Galliano liqueur from his boss during his first year of working as an accountant, when he was 22. He would have been in his 90s today, so we’re going back 70ish years. It remained unopened – why I’m not sure, but probably for the same reason people frame the first dollar they made in their business, instead of spend it. Approximately 39 years ago, as he was dying from ALS, he gave it to my mom. I was 10 months old at the time, so needless to say, I do not remember this or him. I have a great memory, (I can remember back to when I was about 2 1/2), but not that great. So this story is all passed down via my mom.
The Galliano, still in its original box, has made – and surprisingly, survived intact – every move with my mom since then. Buffalo to California. California to Georgia. Another move in Georgia. Georgia to New Jersey. And finally, to the house in New Jersey where I grew up and my parents still live. She’s been saving it for a special occasion. In this time, her kids and stepkids (there are 5 siblings total) have all gotten married, and there are now eight grandchildren. So I feel like the clock has been ticking on the Galliano. A bit of a “if not now, when?”.
Yesterday, as myself and my husband, my brother, his wife, and their two kids sat in my parents’ kitchen, my mom declared, “Let’s open the Galliano tonight!”. Apparently, its time had come. Let me pause here to say that we actually had to google what exactly Galliano was, other than generally knowing it was a liqueur. Also, at least three of us were nearly certain that the bottle would contain, as my brother called it, some of the best vinegar in existence. I mean, it’s in a glass bottle and, while it has sat in a box all of these years, is over 70 years old. The chances of it not being skunked were pretty slim, in our opinions. But this bottle had survived two owners and at least six houses, probably seven (I’m not sure if my grandfather received it while living in the house my mom grew up in, or the one before). We owed it the dignity of a fair chance.
So, we opened it. Low and behold, it was perfectly fine. I can’t really compare the taste to anything else I’ve had – it’s called an herbal liqueur, which I anticipated to taste, honestly, pretty rough even if not skunked. It conjured up images of liqueur made from parsley, oregano, and other questionable ingredients. For the record, it didn’t. At least not to me. The closest thing I could compare it to is limoncello, but it isn’t nearly as, well, lemony, and has a different finish. I’m about to make it sound disgusting, which it is not, but it almost has a finish akin to when you’ve just had a throat lozenge. Not the taste, but the airy, passageways cleared out, feeling.
As we toasted each other and family and Christmas, it felt like the passing of a torch somehow. A nod to the memories of the past, and a commitment to those of the future. A lot has happened in those 70-odd years since my grandfather got that bottle, and the almost 40 years since he gave it to my mom. My grandma (my mom’s mom), who survived her husband by 30 years, passed away in 2008. She had nine grandchildren, and I believe three great grandchildren, two of which were only 3 or 4 years old at the time, and may not remember her. Were my grandparents still alive today, they’d have 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Their own three children have traveled the country and the world. They’ve made countless memories over the years, some together, and some with their own individual families. In these years, the remainder of my grandmother’s’ siblings have all passed away, and as my grandfather was the youngest of his siblings by something like 15 years, I’m guessing his have too, though we aren’t in contact with them so I can’t be sure.
The Galliano opening was, in a way, the end of an era. Of the nine of us grandchildren, only two have any memories of my grandfather, and even those are probably a bit hazy, though I can’t speak for them. We are now the ones getting bottles of wine or bourbon or other presents as a thank you. Who possibly have a gift still in its packaging years after the fact, that we haven’t yet brought ourselves to open and will one day pass down to generation that follows, still in tact. And if we are all lucky, we are the ones that, years from now, when the current children in our family are all grown and perhaps have children of their own, will sit around recounting stories and memories together one holiday and say, “Remember that Christmas when we finally opened the Galliano?”.