The Story: This was one of my more surprising drinks. As I’ve encountered people during the project, and told them what I’m doing, I’ve gotten one of two responses. By and large, people have said either “that sounds like fun/interesting/ridiculous,” or “our drink should be….” People I did not have on my original list have opted into the project on their own – and I’ve been thrilled to share a drink with each one of them that has. To me, it means they feel some sort of connection, friendship, kinship or special relationship with me and that is a big part of what this project is all about.
But my cousin Jake? Never in a thousand years would I have thought he would want to be a part. So when he asked to share a drink, I jumped at the chance.
Jake and his brother Zach are my much younger cousins on my mother’s side. They’re my mother’s brother Bill’s sons and they have been a fixture in my life for the entire length of each of theirs.
Since 1981, my mother has hosted her family for Thanksgiving at her house, first in Candia and then in Manchester. When we moved into the big Victorian house in Manchester, she started hosting Christmas Eve as well. For many years, it was just a family gathering with her side of the family but, in recent years, it’s turned into more of an open house with many of my close friends coming, too. Christmas Eve always includes a visit from Santa, who brings presents for the little kids, and a rousing, rowdy, almost-out-of-control Yankee Swap.
One of the things I remember about holidays is that Jake always went home with a ‘to go’ plate of desserts from the dessert buffet.
My mother’s mother, Rose, was killed by a drunk driver three days before Christmas 15 years ago. That was a particularly difficult holiday for all of us, especially since Rosie was pretty on top of things and had almost finished her Christmas shopping, leaving posthumous gifts for almost everyone that year. I still have the turtle-shaped boot scraper near my front door but don’t you dare put your boots anywhere near it.
My mother’s house had always been the family house, though – the grandmother’s house – for her side of the family. All the kids on that side grew up doing laps – running up one set of stairs, around the second floor, down the other set of stairs and around the first floor – over and over and over again. Or they’d sit in the TV room for hours and hours playing video games while the adults (and older kids like me) were visiting elsewhere in the house. Or they’d eat not enough dinner and too many desserts. These things were always allowed – and most times encouraged – at Auntie Jo’s house.
So Jake was always around. Thanksgiving and Christmas for sure. During the summer, there’d be a party at Bill’s and it was our turn to go out there. Or, we’d see each other up at camp – the house my grandfather and his brother built on Rocky Pond when my mother was eight.
While my grandmother was still alive, she would move up there during the summer and weekends were a free for all, with everyone welcome. You could book a week to take your vacation at camp but weekends were always open to everyone. Camp was close enough to Manchester that we were there most weekends – as were most of the other families, too – so we spent a lot of time together. A parent was a parent, didn’t matter if it was yours – you had to listen to them but they could also watch you if they were down on the beach and you wanted to swim.
We kids were stacked three or four to a room – we were little back then – or, on weekends when there were even more of us, we slept on the floor in the living room or pitched tents in the yard. Days were spent swimming and playing and water skiing. Evenings were spent catching fireflies in jars or playing hide and seek.
After my grandmother died, two of my mothers’ siblings bought the camp so it’s still in the family but things are different now and I only make it up there once or twice a summer.
But getting back to my drink with Jake…
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Jake attended a weekend-long seminar on how to meet women. I had read about that sort of thing in the fantastic book The Game a few years ago. The practice was also featured in a reality series on MTV a while back called The Pickup Artist.
The basic premise of the book and the TV series was that ‘experts’ in these techniques would teach other men a set of behaviors, tactics and techniques that would allow them to meet and pick up women. In its most basic form, it would give men who might not have it the confidence to approach and meet women. In its practice in the book, it turned quiet, nerdy guys into manipulative assholes. The book, which I loved, read like a cautionary tale in my mind.
All this is to say that I had some idea of the concept when Jake told me about his recent schooling and I was very curious to hear about it from him.
To say Jake was a changed man would be a complete and utter understatement. This quiet guy had found his voice. We talked more during that lunch than we probably have our entire lives – and it was wond.der.ful.
Jake told me that the class was a life-changing experience for him – and it showed. It had helped him understand that people were just people and we all have the same insecurities and issues, though some of us (especially us extroverts) hide them better – or manifest them differently. It gave him some new ideas on how to connect with and talk to people, no matter who they were – men, women, aunts, cousins.
He said this newfound knowledge had opened up the world to him. He felt like he was experiencing the world in a different way than he had for the first 28 years of his life. He was optimistic and happy and talkative. He asked me about myself and told me about him and his life. He lives in San Diego now and travels extensively for work so his new skills were literally opening up the world to him. Now, nights and weekends in far-flung corners of the world were a huge opportunity and a reason to be excited rather than a sentence to solitary, lonely hotel rooms.
I gave him the book so he could read the cautionary tale himself, although I don’t think he’s got it in him to turn into one of those guys. I reminded him to always use his powers for good and not for evil and he promised he would. Then I drove him back to my mom’s house where his dad was hanging waiting for us to finish lunch.
The Drink: Jake is on the Paleo diet, which means he eats pretty much meat and vegetables…and that’s it. He also tries to eat very “close to the ground,” meaning as local, organic and fresh as possible so we clearly had to have lunch at Republic, which sources all their food from within 50 miles of the restaurant location.
I was focused on finding somewhere we could have a nice lunch but we ended up finding a pretty fitting drink on the menu, too. The Maple Manhattan, which we renamed the Maple Man(ch)hattan, was fitting for Jake and I to share now that he’s living in San Diego. Maple syrup is one of NH’s native delicacies and the Man(ch)hattan placed us firmly in Manchester. All in all, a great drink to share for two cousins from Manchester, NH.