One of my favorite stories with my grandmother:

Two years ago, we went to my grandmother’s for a family Christmas. My mother, my sister and her husband and I were there, along with my mother’s sister and her family (husband, three kids, one daughter-in-law and a granddaughter) and their brother and his family (wife and son) were also there. It was a full house.

On my way up from St. Louis, I’d stopped at a wine store. There was a wine I wanted that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. I think I walked out with four bottles. Family get-togethers are always stressful. My mother and her sister do not get along. We live farther away (and almost always have) than the other relatives. My siblings and I generally do not have a lot to discuss with our cousins. And my cousin’s daughter — who was almost 1 at the time, I think — was definitely center stage.

Our family gatherings don’t include alcohol. That year, we changed that; my mother and I cracked open a bottle of wine with dinner. (We offered to fill glasses for others, but there weren’t any takers.)

My uncle Terry and his wife, Cindy, were late showing up, though. Terry’s step-son’s wife was in a car accident on her way home (before heading to dinner), and the whole family was at the emergency room with her. The car was totaled, but Jill was fine (and sore), and went home with her husband. Cindy, Terry and their son, Jacob, came over for dinner. Cindy was pretty shaken from the accident and sitting in the ER; when she walked in, my mother offered her a glass of wine, and between the three of us we emptied two bottles.

When my mother and I got ready to leave, my grandmother pulled me aside and said there were two bottles of champagne out in the garage that she’d had for a few years. She said she couldn’t drink it anymore, and said I should take them because “you look like a drinker.”