Cocktail Picks and Pheasants


And another one bites the dust. Another what? Another pink plastic cocktail pick.

A cocktail pick my father had sought out for its quality, its heft, its ability to be washed and re-used notwithstanding its plastic-ness. A cocktail pick completely unlike the skimpy, translucent-green, single-use ones purveyed in bars and on airplanes.

He wasn’t a yeller but neither was he given to suffering in silence when something displeased him, en famille. But among friends? That, it seems, was another matter.

Not being at the scene of any of the recurring crimes — guests absent-mindedly snapping one of these Entirely-Re-usable-Dagnab-It cocktail picks — all I have is a hearsay report about my father’s reaction.

He tries not to wince.

The witness — my mother — was generally reliable, so let’s go with that.

This week I was reminded of that decades-old story when the Big Guy’s martini glass came back with its pink plastic cocktail pick as usual . . . but with one leg (foot?) busted. (It was, of course, merely a tragic accident.)


And that in turn reminded me of a recent interaction. One sibling had sent along a photo of a pheasant phrolicking in their super-urban backyard, and another said,

“Do you remember how Gram hated these guys
because, in winter, they would come up out of the river valley
and dig up and eat her bulbs?”

Um, no. No, I don’t. Among other things, I remember:

  • Eating her fried chicken
  • Watching fireworks from her living room during the Stampede
  • Learning from her how to grow sweet peas as nice as the ones along the side of her house
  • Seeing her adjusting a chiffon scarf over her nose and face before venturing out into a wintry zephyr, the better to prevent an asthma attack, my dear

But I have no memory of a blood-feud between Gram and the pheasants.

None of us knows the whole story of our grandparents or, even, our parents. We each hold a unique subset of memories driven by the happenstances of our interactions, the fit or lack-of-fit between us, the time we are graced to have together, and our own interests.

And really, how nice it is that their stories *are* widely and idiosyncratically held, making, if you like, a not-entirely random but completely unpredictable sprinkling of shooting stars across the night sky when something lights up a memory.

Parents, grandparents, now gone from this earth forever
to be a warm memory in a song,
a familiar place on a drive,
or maybe recognizable
from a favorite smell in the kitchen or garden.

Brett Wilburn Photography

Or, maybe, a broken pink cocktail pick.


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10 Responses to Cocktail Picks and Pheasants

  1. You have provided all the justification I need for preserving those little keepsakes that chime with such memories.

    The idiosyncratic memories, when shared, broaden the history of the past that we can pass on. Memories that synchronize are a special delight because they reinforce our confidence as storytellers. However, I think those now gone are more than memories. They are part of the great cloud of witnesses lending their strengths to the challenges we face and cheering us on.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – It’s a delightful thought (that those we love are part of a communion of the saints) although I can’t help but wonder whether my father would be spending part of his time keeping an eagle-eye out for yahoos snapping cocktail picks! I agree whole-heartedly that the stories deserve to be shared. One result is a better connection with our past. Another might be a better appreciation that we, too, form part of that chain of stories.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Your statement “None of us knows the whole story of our grandparents or, even, our parents” is so true.

    I think it stems from the fact that we’re all too occupied with building our own lives and, suddenly, they’re gone, leaving behind the many questions we never asked.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Yes, that’s a big part of it. But of course it would be impossible to know their “whole” story, so I guess all we can do is be grateful for the bits we do know.

  3. Lorna Shapiro says:

    Lovely reminder that we each only have our own perspective on any person or situation.

    Keeps me humble. On my good days.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    My grandmother sent all her grandchildren the
    story of her life (7 typed pages), from landing in NYC in 1907. She died at 98.
    It filled in some gaps, but it’s written in public-consumption language. I would have preferred a journal (as you can imagine).
    We also have many of her 5-year diaries: And every single 2-line entry
    is filled in — she never missed a day. But every one of the entries is ONLY the weather!
    But their objects are so poignant. Things do get imbued with sentiment, if not sentience.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I know what you mean about “public consumption” writing. In the absence of real journals, I like letters: between siblings or between a daughter and a parent.

  5. Barry Jewell says:

    “None of us knows the whole story of our grandparents or, even, our parents” is so true.

    We do not even “know” our own story as, in addition to the Alzheimer’s, is an observation by Nietzsche – “I have done that” says my memory. “I cannot have done that” says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually – memory yields.

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