Happy Drunk.

“Rat! Get the grill out of the garage!”

Dad made his way from the driveway to the house.  It would have been a full swagger if he had been sober enough to walk a straight path.  His arms were full of groceries and he had a six pack under each arm.

Calling me Rat meant he was very drunk.  Demanding the grill meant he had chicken.  All that remained to be seen was if he had enough for everyone or just himself.

“Go ask your mother if you can stay for dinner.  I’m making chicken,” he proclaimed to my friend, who took off to her house.

I relaxed.  This was happy drunk.  Happy drunk meant friends didn’t need to leave.  Happy drunk was when he built me a clubhouse because I said I wanted one.  Happy drunk was rare.

Mom wasn’t happy, though.  She was pissed he spent money we didn’t have on food we didn’t need and she was pissed he was inviting others to eat with us.  She had already started cooking dinner, spaghetti again, which Dad promptly dismissed as being “shit no one wanted to eat.”  She hated that he made such a mess when he cooked, but it felt more like she just hated to see her kids having fun with their dad.

When the chicken was eaten and the last sticky bits of sauce were licked from our fingers, the kids went back to playing and Dad set about watering the vegetable garden.  Mom began cleaning up.  I could tell she was still angry.  Didn’t she think the chicken was delicious?  I was so happy that Dad was spending time with us.  He wasn’t passed out.  He wasn’t screaming.  He was happy.  I was happy.  Why couldn’t Mom just be happy?

When Dad was done watering, he turned the hose on us.  We weren’t wearing our bathing suits, so getting soaking wet was really funny.  Most of our yard was dirt where grass should have been and the water simply turned it to mud.  Running in flip flops became impossible, so we went barefoot.  Our legs stained brown up to our calves, we ran and slid and laughed.

When Mom saw our drenched and filthy clothes and my hair full of mud, she was furious.  My friend was sent home.  My brother and I were sent inside for baths.  From the bathroom, I could hear them in the yard arguing.  Dad shouted that we were just having fun and Mom needed to lighten up.  Mom countered that he couldn’t just disrupt everything because he felt like being a family.

It was turning back into a regular summer Sunday night.

Later, once in my bed, clean and dry, I couldn’t help but smile.  It didn’t matter to me that Mom was mad or Dad was now unconscious.  I knew that for as long as I lived, that evening was going to be etched in my memory as one of the best of my childhood.


Linking up with Yeah Write again this week.  If you have a blog and a 500-word or less story to share, come join the fun,  If not, come by for some good reading and vote for 5 favorites on Thursday.

Edited to add:  Talk about feeling the love!  This post won the jury prize and crowd favorite this week.
Thank you to everyone who commented and voted and for every kind word this post has received.  

50 Responses to “Happy Drunk.”

  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    I remember many of the same nights with my husband. Nicely described from the childs pov, Michelle.Here is what I wrote recently for Brevity, a lit journal–I know you will be able to relate: brevity.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/distilled-memory/Share

  2. Christie says:

    Man I love how you do this. Show your childlike fears and joys and take us there. I relate to e stone in this story: you, your mom, your dad. Your point of view makes this so real– and your way with language and detail.

    • Thanks Christie! It’s amazing the turns these memories take as a parent. I can totally understand why my mother was so angry. But as a kid, you don’t hold on to anger, you just enjoy the good times.

  3. Stacie says:

    Wow Michelle. You continue to blow me away with these stories. I just loved this. The overall scenario makes me very sad, but I’m happy you have those joyful times to look back on.

    • I was hoping for this to feel happy, even in the middle of the rotten. On the inside, he was a good man. Very sick and flawed, but he didn’t mean to be who he was, it just happened. There were good times, it was nice to remember one of them.

  4. this was beautifully written and so full of feeling. this really put me there. i felt it all, and identified with both you and your mom. so good.

  5. I love this post and how you show the perspective from childhood and the juxtaposition of how we read it now and how your mother saw it. Having a lot of alcoholism in my (thankfully not immediate) family, I totally get this. I have an aunt and there were times that we had a blast and then times she would unintentionally hurt me, often physically–like the time she gave me a home perm and ruined my hair. I didn’t know she was drinking, so it was all just very confusing. It’s so challenging for kids, especially when those moments were so sweet…but I can see where your mom was and I would have been there too. Glad you could keep the precious memory, and that you have some of those! Wonderful piece.

    • I knew from a very young age that my dad was an alcoholic – maybe around 5 or 6 – and yet I wasn’t able to pick up on that with other adults who were drunk. When I’d find out that they drank too, I was always so surprised. It’s amazing what kids will understand and still remain naive to.

      Sorry you can relate to this at all. It was a good day and one that I’ll always remember fondly.

  6. You nailed the sentiment, and it touched my heart. Children seem to typically hope for the best, during the worst.

  7. Beautiful writing, Michelle. I related most to the confusion of being a child around all that rage and hurt – some explicit, some disguised with alcohol. You really pulled me in to the story and tugged at my emotions. Great job.

  8. Marcy says:

    I can really picture your mom’s anger over the chicken and the mud. It’s cool how you can describe it as a happy memory but understand your mom’s anger too.

  9. Robbie K says:

    I love how you present both points of views. The way you know that your mom is angry but you are holding on to the good parts of it.

  10. Blanca Cruz says:

    Great piece, Michelle. I enjoy reading your blog. You are a very talented writer. Lots of luck to you!

  11. Vanessa D says:

    I’ve hit the point where I can start to look back at my marriage from your mom’s perspective and try to see it from my kid’s perspective. Thank you for sharing this, even if it makes me a little bit sad to know my own kids have similar experiences.

  12. Dawn Perkins says:

    I can’t relate to the situation but you told it well from your point of view. I can see why it is such a great memory for you! :)

  13. christina says:

    i’m SO glad you have that memory.

  14. That last line made me cry SO MUCH. Because even as a child, you were able to see the great stuff about that night, despite the arguing and the alcohol. So beautifully written. xo

  15. IASoupMama says:

    Oh, children and hope and magic… I’m glad that you had that magic that night. Many hugs, dear one…

  16. Gosh. This put you in everybody’s space through your POV. The reader saw and felt your dad, your mother and then a child’s perspective. Wanted everything to be normal and happy. A wonderful job.

  17. Joe says:

    So many conflicting emotions – well told.

  18. Wonderful – and such a fantastic point of view piece. Definitely a child snuggled inside an adult. Well done.

  19. When you write about these moments from your childhood, you really take us there. They are so well written and so well described, I feel like I am standing right there with you.

  20. Reading this is so humbling for me – in a good way. I don’t ever want to be like that, and it’s scary to think that could’ve been me…
    Thank you for sharing such a powerful memory.

  21. Kristin says:

    All the pain aside…haha…I love summer! As a kid, staying out in our bare feet until the street lights came on, drinking water from the hose, catching lighting bugs. You do indeed take us there.

  22. Ann Bennett says:

    Really a good vignette of your childhood. Enjoying what good that comes. Alcoholism is a devil to live with. Take care.

  23. tuhina tomar says:

    It’s so saddening to hear about your childhood being the way it was. But what is commendable is that you are strong enough to talk about so indifferently. Also, even as a kid with all the quarrelling at home, you could still be happy about the little time of happiness you had with your father. Very impressive post. :)

  24. Congrats on the win for yeah write!

  25. Kianwi says:

    Wow, congrats on the double win! And after reading it, I can see why :) Such a great story. It’s one of those that is simultaneously sad and happy. My dad was an alcoholic, and my mom was the ‘bitch’ for getting pissed, too, so I can completely relate to this, even if our experiences were different. Later, as an adult, you see things through a wider lense, but as kids, you can’t help but simplify it. Well told!!

  26. When Dad was done watering, he turned the hose on us. We weren’t wearing our bathing suits, so getting soaking wet was really funny. Most of our yard was dirt where grass should have been and the water simply turned it to mud. Running in flip flops became impossible, so we went barefoot. Our legs stained brown up to our calves, we ran and slid and laughed.
    Cheap LOL IP

    LOL Influence Points


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