Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Wee Christmas Nip

My great-grandmother, Therese McGinnes Austin, was not one to shy away from a cocktail. It was common, even up until her death at age 94, to have some form of apertif each night - usually scotch and water, no ice. But I will always remember Grandma and her bottle of Wild Turkey on holidays.

See, in her day, if you drank before 12 noon you basically were an alcoholic. So, on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, she'd be seated at the dining room table, with her old-fashioned glass and bottle looking at the clock waiting for "High Noon" as we laughingly called it.

Grandma was what people used to call a "pistol" (in New York there is another term used - "a real p*sser") - funny, witty, would not shy away from a bawdy joke or two, and was always surrounded by family, friends and fans when she "held court."

Now that I look at it, what she was doing was "storytelling." Not all of the stories involved family memories or things of days gone by. But she has been the source of many of the items included here and I learned of them during these impromptu get-togethers.

In my family no one ever got sloppy, or weepy, or angry when they drank especially on holidays. But being an Irish household, Grandma always had a "wee nip" available. She also used to say "if it weren't for whiskey, the Irish would have conquered the world." She knew "her people" as she called them.

And even when travelling, Grandma would pack up the "bar" - a medium sized valise which turned into a bar with a place for bottles, glasses, and all the fixins. She once told me that years before, when you went to a hotel, you packed up the bar before you got in the car. Some hotels didn't serve liquor or when they did, the charge for room service to bring up a bottle of cheer was way too much money. Thus, have bar, will travel. Grandma was a practical woman after all. And all this from a woman who spent most of her life in the only dry town in the county where I grew up (and still dry since 1933).

Now we always have a laugh over this tune, The Twelve Daze of Christmas, and think of Grandma. While she was never anything like Fay McRay who sings the song, everyone knew that a bottle of scotch or Wild Turkey would be an appreciated gift for her at Christmas.

Click here to hear The Twelve Daze of Christmas.


Randy Seaver said...


You've really outdone everybody with the picture and the song ... hilarious stuff. Thanx!

Sounds like your great-grandma was a real p!sser! Every family should be blessed with someone like that.

Cheers - Randy

T.K. said...

ROFLMAO!! Please tell me that's not a picture of your granny, Thomas!

Thomas MacEntee said...

No, that in no way is my great-grandmother who was ever the "grand dame." She died when I was 26 and I consider myself so fortunate to have had her as an influence. Picture a woman who was 6 feet tall with auburn hair - very commanding, sort of like Julia Child.

Besides, Grandma knew that the proper way to drink a 40 ouncer whilst lounging in an alley was with a brown paper bag and a straw.

Randy Seaver said...


I couldn't resist checking YouTube for "12 Days" videos and found some "interesting" ones. I posted them on my non-genealogy blog that I'm usually too busy to post on - see for some real funnies.

Have a wee nip remembering your great-granny while watching and they're even better!

Enjoy -- Randy

Lee said...

LOL...Between the photo and the song, I can't catch my breath for laughing! And the comment to T.K. is not helping matters, at all. LOL...