Remembering Friends With an Annual Toast

Back in 1981, almost a month after we gathered at Silvio’s for New Year’s Eve, we were again together to celebrate my 18th birthday.

I was the oldest of the group and the first to hit the legal 18 mark.

I was also the first to register to vote as well as sign up for Selective Service.

The following year, Chris and I took driver’s education and we both got our licenses.

My dad sat me down about the awesome responsibility it was to be able to drive.

He didn’t mind me driving, but I could only use the car if there was a destination, such as to the movies and back.

He also said that if I was going to drive, that I couldn’t drink any alcohol, which wasn’t a problem for me. I was young and thin back then and a drop of alcohol would have brought me to my knees.

We lost a classmate later that year due to drinking and driving, so we made a pact that if we did drink, we would travel by mass transit, or if we did need to drive, then the driver could not drink. We’d comp his food and sodas instead.

We all were together at Rich’s house. Silvio had given me this bottle of sherry which came in a small sack, thus the name, Dry Sack, on my 18th birthday.

We each took about a shot glass full. I sipped mine.

My grandma used to drink sherry to warm her up. I didn’t much care for the taste.

Silvio thought that each year we could all get together and have a glass and toast the new year and my birthday.

It sounded reasonable as I thought that we’d always be near each other to do that.

The following year at Silvio’s parents’ house, he asked about the bottle. I told him that I safely tucked the bottle away in my parents’ liquor cabinet.

I didn’t think my parents had any and it seemed the safest place to store it.

So it pretty much sat there through the years, forming a ring through the sack.

Each year on my birthday weekend, I’d pour a little and toast my absent friends and wish them well. Warm thoughts would wash over me as I recalled the days of our youth.

About 10 years later, as most of us had gone our separate ways, I again recalled the fun we had.

One year my mom was feeling a chill and asked for a bit of it. I told her the story of how it came to be while remembering my grandma having her late-afternoon sherry.

A few months later, I lost my dad in the same month that the bottle had finally emptied. I kept the bottle in its sack for a few years afterward as a keepsake.