One of my earliest memories is sitting on my Uncle Mel’s lap at my grandma’s dining room table, him with a can of beer in his hand, encouraging me to take a sip. I was about three years old. We were surrounded by other uncles and my older cousins, laughing at the scene, and I’m pretty sure neither my mom or dad were anywhere in the close vicinity. Yesterday I said that all of us Saltmarsh kids got an early start on beer-drinking thanks to our uncles, and my cousin Deanna said, “Well, in this family, God forbid you don’t learn to drink it!”
Yes, Saltmarshes are beer drinkers, and yet I have never really acquired a taste for it. My immediate response to the taste of beer is usually either “Yuck!” or “Ya got anything back there with an umbrella?” I just don’t really like it. While some might say this is a good thing, the not drinking of the beer, not liking the taste of it has made me feel like I’m faking it as a Saltmarsh. I haven’t been to a lot of our big family gatherings since I turned 21, but when I do go, I don’t usually drink at them because there’s no blender or bright green liqueur or piña colada mixers and, well, I kinda require those things. I likes me them girly drinks.
In honor of my Uncle Mel, who died on January 10 and whose funeral was yesterday, I drank beer this weekend without making THAT FACE. And I even learned a handy little beer-related skill—my cousin Jeff taught me how to take the cap off a beer bottle using a butter knife. Jeff is now my Jedi beer master (fitting, really, since Uncle Mel was his dad). When I told another cousin, Kenny, what I learned, he was all DUH, YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT? See? It’s apparently a common family skill. I’m a bad Saltmarsh.
Uncle Mel would have gladly guzzled a beer or six with me, I bet. I would have drunkenly toasted him for my initiation 40 years ago, apologized for being such a late bloomer, and then, as I set up another round using my fancy new technique, sliced off my thumb with the butter knife. And, not even noticing the blood, he would have turned to me and asked, for the hundredth time, “Which one are you again?”
R.I.P., Uncle Mel. You will be missed.