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Moya Costello and Patricia Costello: I Don't Remember

Moya Costello and Patricia Costello: I Don't Remember

The writers reflect on a history of drinking @ Griffith Review This is a singular history of drinking – within one Costello family of Irish, French, Spanish and/or Italian ancestry, all of whom have associations with alcohol.

But our first drink every day was warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice. It was our father Frank's legacy, as are most, if not all, of our drinking habits. We probably had a lemon tree in the backyard, along with stone fruit, a choko vine, rotary clothes line, cubby house, shed, incinerator, fish pond, chooks and dogs, canaries, budgerigars and homing pigeons. Lemon cleansed the body, leaving the mouth stripped bare and scouring the soul temporarily white, ready for the day ahead. Toxins dissipated and life began anew. It was like spring every morning. However, it didn't save our father from a relatively early death at seventy-six. Lemons are incapable of counter-terrorism against tobacco.

The blood of Christ was our next memorable beverage. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. We consumed them at Sunday morning Mass, at the glorious rose-and-cream marble communion rail of St Mark's Church, Drummoyne. It's a wonder we weren't horrified by the cannibalistic implications of the practice. But the host was swallowed, by-passing the teeth. And we had been seduced by the metrosexual images of Christ with long, wavy hair, so common to the period. Or perhaps our capacity for horror had a high threshold because of the sadistic tales of the persecution of saints by beating, burning or dismemberment, or all three, in our primary-school religion lessons.

The parish priest, Father Boyle, managed to deliver just the tiniest sip of wine to a rail full of communicants, wiping the gold chalice with a white cloth and moving on. The wine tasted like what we now recognise as port, sherry, or bulk red, but we're uncertain of its flavour because there were so many other distractions for teenage girls at Communion, like seeing what other girls were wearing. With hands cupped in prayer mode at the chest, but looking piously to the ground, we had to remember where we sat in a large and crowded church with undifferentiated seating of heavy, dark wooden pews. It could be competitive, embarrassing, mortifying. Unfortunately, it was never intoxicating: too little wine offered and too big a leap of faith required.

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