Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chock Full 'o Drunks

When I was a kid, mothers used to bond over something called the "coffee klatch" (not mine, of course, who thought bonding with anyone who wasn't a blood relative a complete waste of time). People owned huge percolators meant to serve the minions who showed up for holidays, or just Sunday dinner. Walking into someone's home for even five minutes would elicit a "wanna cuppa cawfee?" which was both required and sincere.

I could post dozens of photos of our family gatherings that include a dining room table dotted with coffee cups. Coffee in the morning, with lunch, in the afternoon, and definitely after dinner. I posted about the coffee addiction of my late ex-husband Tony.

At one point in the 80s, I quit drinking coffee altogether. At breakfast in a restaurant, the poor waitresses didn't know what to do with me. There was no time-killing coffee order prior to bringing the food. I disrupted their whole world.

Now, it seems, alcohol has replaced coffee as the beverage of choice in suburbia. I didn't experience this when I was raising my daughter in NYC, but here in the 'burbs, someone is always trying to shove a glass of wine or a cocktail in my noon.

My son made friends with a kid a few years ago whose parents started inviting me over for various social functions. I was relatively new here and single, so it was nice to feel like part of the community. It soon became evident that these people had a serious drinking problem. The kids would be running around playing while the parents would blow through bottle after bottle of wine like it was water. No, scratch that. I couldn't drink that much water without having my bladder explode.

I gradually stopped going to their house because I just couldn't relate to all that imbibing. Then one night I ran into the dad and his son about an hour from our homes. He reeked of booze. Before I could do or say anything (and I'm not quite sure what I could do or say), he got into his car, with his kid, and drove. Lucas and his son drifted apart and that issue went away for us.

Lucas, who doesn't make friends easily, has bonded with a kid named Max over the past two years or so. But I find myself in the same situation. I went to drop him off at the kid's house on a Saturday morning and was greeted by the dad who was VERY happy and repeating himself a lot. He offered me a drink (it was 11:30 AM and I was literally dropping off my son and getting into my car). I politely declined and he badgered me until I finally said, "You know, I just really don't drink much."

Every time I see these people (intelligent, middle class folk) they have a drink in hand, and when I consistently decline their offers to partake they stare at me with the puzzled expression of someone looking to unload a winning lottery ticket. They have three young boys, a big aggressive dog, a swimming pool, and the father hunts so I know there are guns in the house. My son found a bullet on their patio. I view them and their house as a tragedy waiting to happen.

I don't want my kid in a car with them, and I'm not crazy about having him go there to play. But it's so hard to get him to socialize that I also know that if he doesn't play with kids whose parents drink he won't play with anyone at all.

So the friend comes here. Almost all the time. And when Lucas goes there, I drive him and I pick him up and trust that his instincts for danger will kick in if he sees something bad happening.

As for me, I'm going to grab myself a cuppa cawfee. Want one?