A Mother and the Spirit of Alcohol

a writing by Elizabeth Padillo Olesen

Time was late in the afternoon. The train from Odense stopped at Aalborg Station. Passengers were one by one coming out of the train while there were those waiting to welcome their travelling loved ones. Nadia was waiting for her sister and nephew to come out. She wondered. The train that could not drive further was like already emptied of passengers. But she wanted to be very certain and she was willing to wait for more few minutes while she tried to draw closer to the train, almost looking through the windows if indeed the ones she had been waiting for were still there or not.

As she moved further forward, she saw Nicole coming out of the train, almost limping and with her was her nephew, Timothy, who was just 5 years old. Nadia had been out of Denmark for a number of years because of work in another country, and it was nice for her to be asked by her mother to pick up her nephew and sister. She was excited to see Nicole and her boy. Of course, her mother had told her about the alcohol problem of Nicole. She could not understand how this clever sister who used to excel in her subjects in school would give in to the temptation of alcohol. She had not heard her for years and could not really estimate how much spirit of alcohol had now managed to control her.

And this was it that met her: Nicole with a body that was quite limping, not able to balance and this little boy, Timothy, holding her hand who was looking right and left almost wondering where all the passengers were gone or whether they were lost in the land of nowhere. Nadia waved her hand and ran to them. She planted a kiss on the check of Nicole and could not ignore the awful smell of alcohol emanating from her face and mouth. Nadia thought it was such a smell that could make her drunk too. She was quick to move away from that smell and went closer to the boy, bending down and seeking to plant a kiss on the face of the boy, who was so quick to move his face away from her.

Welcoming the boy, Nadia said, “This must be Timothy. I have a picture of you when you were an infant, actually during your baptism and look who is here now.” And she looked at the little boy admiringly even if the boy did not utter a word. Timothy tightened his hold of his mother’s hand, seemingly scared if his mother should leave him.

Nicole laughed. “Oh, who are you”, she asked Nadia, as if she had seen a kind stranger.
“I am Nadia. Can you not recognize me”? she said with a little disappointment in her voice.

Nicole responded with a voice like that of a child who was just learning to speak. “Oh, Nadia, well, where have you been? When was it you were in Denmark?”

“Have you forgotten the time you drove me to the airport, the day I left the country”” Nadia tried to remind her.

“Yes, of course, but you never wrote to me.”

“I‘m sorry." And she held the hand of Nicole, wanting to lead her to the right place where the car was parked. Nicole seemed lost in the jungle, seemingly unaware she was out of the train and the boy simply wondered who this new person was, aside from his mother who was the closest person in his life.

It was a quick ride from the train station. Nadia spoke,“I did not ask you about your luggage. You came out of the train without your luggage. Don't you have any luggage?”

Nicole gave out a quick laugh. “Uha, our two bags I could not find out. Naughty people in that station out there." She pointed at a certain direction with her hands, trying to signal the distance of the place but she did not really remember the name of that station where the train stopped or where she took the next connecting train.

“We just went out to a little shop. I had to buy cigarettes and I left my bags on that bench and when we came back, my bags were all gone. They were just gone and we could not find them anymore.” Nicole, like a child, demonstrated her words by raising her fingers and shaking her head,leaving a smile on her face.

“Too bad", Nadia responded. "What to do now?”

Nicole pacified herself. “It must be the bastards on the streets who took away my bags.”

The little boy did not answer. Nadia could see the tears coming out of the eyes of Timothy.

Nadia came closer to the boy and asked him, “Why are you crying, dear?” The boy did not answer.

Nicole understood it. She came closer to Timothy, planted a kiss on the boy.“Don’t you worry, my darling. I will buy that for you. Don’t you worry.” She caressed the head of the little Timothy.

While addressing to Nadia, Nicole said, “Oh, in that bag was the Play Station he got from his father. It was the Christmas gift from his father he was really happy about.I can understand.” Addressing the boy again, she said, “My darling, we will get it tomorrow.”

Nadia touched the boy. “Oh, I am sorry for you, dear Timothy. But I will try to find some computer games in the basement and I think you will like some of them. My other nephews have left their videos on Star Wars. I think you will like them. We can borrow them while you are here.”

Timothy’s eyes looked excited. He began to believe that Nadia was a family member. He felt safe. He saw his own mother Nicole settling down on the sofa really very tired. And in few minutes, he heard her snoring. This was not the first time he saw his mother sleeping and snoring,leaving himself to speak alone to himself. After the divorce of his mother and father, the drinking of his mother came to be much more regular, almost every day. Timothy kissed her, like an adult showering love for a child.

Now he had time to speak to Nadia, “Mother said, she would buy another Play Station 1 for me tomorrow.”

“It is great, dear. But if your mother cannot make it tomorrow, then we can have another video for you.”

Timothy just looked at her. He seemed not to have learned to say thank you for any help being extended.He only began to feel that there was an adult in the family who sounded kind and who could speak like a real adult.

The drive of the car had made the little boy dizzy. He could not wait for tomorrow. He had to ask her newfound auntie Nadia on the videos she mentioned. “Where is the video, Star wars?” He looked at her, while covering his mouth with his hand.

“Oh, yes, let’s go to the basement and see if we can find it,” answered Nadia. Timothy came with her, showing that trust he had on an adult.

Nadia,while looking at the collection on CD rack,said, “ Okay, I will find out first if it is here.It should be here as I can remember.” Luckily she found it.“Here we have it here!” Nadia played the video. But it worked only for few minutes and then it stopped. There was a shriek on the sound.

Nadia shook her head. “Oh,I am sorry,the video is not well-kept.I can see there are more scratches. This has been used many times. Not really taken cared of.I am sorry, my boy.”

“It is okay. My mother has promised to buy me tomorrow,” answered Timothy with conviction in his voice.

The mother of Nicole was in the kitchen cooking. Timothy and Nadia were looking at the program,“The Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls. It was in English and once in a while Nadia tried to translate to Timothy some of the things said in English.Timothy liked Indians. He carefully watched the little Laura extending friendship to wierd Indians.

It was 8.30 in the evening. The mother of Nicole called Nadia that they should eat. She called Nicole forcefully just to appease the worry over the face of the little boy.

“Ok, Timothy we eat now.” I will call your mother.”
Nadia called the name of Nicole. Nicole did not respond.
The little Timothy approached her mother on the sofa and shook her arm.”Mother, let us eat now” and he shook again her arm,“Mother, let us eat now”. Nicole never answered; neither showed any sign of waking up.

Nadia tried to abort the disappointment of the boy.“We can just eat now and let your mother eat later,maybe after her sleep.”

Timothy, wanting to get the company of her mother,ran back to her mother, to the sofa where Nicole was lying down. He whispered into the ears of his mother.“Mother, let us eat. Mother, let us eat now.” But there was no answer. “Mother," while holding Nicole’s arms, "let us eat now, mother”
Nicole did not answer him, nor had she given any sign that she was sleeping.

Timothy cried. He ran to the kitchen and told to the grandmother.”Mother is not waking up. Mother is not waking up,” and he burst into tears.

Nadia embraced him to assure him that his mother was okay. “Darling, you should not be so worried. She is okay, I promise you.”

Timothy would not like to accept any word to appease him. Once again,he felt alone, alone in a place and time where there was only his mother who knew him, alone to himself talking to himself every time his mother would be sleeping for many hours, alone in the constant fears if ever his mother should wake up. He continued to cry.

The mother of Nicole approached Nicole and held her hands so strongly. “Nicole, you have to wake up now. I have made food for us. The table is ready. You can sleep after. Your child is very unhappy.”

Nicole raised her arms to the air, “Oh, I have slept.I think I was dreaming”, and she raised her arms continuing to gap.

Timothy stopped crying, sat beside his mother around the table; held Nicole’s arm, as if to assure him that she was not going anywhere else. The table was beautifully decorated by Nadia with the lighted red candles and red napkins and facing them was the beautiful shining Christmas tree. The mother of Nicole cooked good dinner: roasted pork, boiled potatoes, sausages, lasagne and fresh salads. Though not part of the Christmas delicacy, grandmother cooked lasagne because she knew that the boy loved it.

“Do you like this, darling?" she asked Timothy as she tried to put a portion on the boy’s plate. Timothy nodded, very much delighted for the food, and delighted that his mother was sitting beside him.
Nicole confirmed, ”O, Timothy loves lasagne. When was it I cooked lasagne?” she asked herself but forgot to answer her own question. And she turned to Timothy. The boy did not answer either. He was very silent.

Early in the morning, Timothy woke up. He went to the garden and wanted to play with the cat, the cat that was standing in the veranda of his grandmother. How he loved to caress the cat which was so responsive to his touch. Timothy kissed the cat and spoke to the cat as his new friend. “My mother will buy me Play Station 1 today. Will you come and see it with me?” And he tickled the cat, sending the cat to jump out of his grasp.

He went back to the room where he and his mother were sleeping. His mother was still on bed sleeping. He did not want to wake her up. He understood that his mother must be tired of the long trip. He decided to go down the basement and see if he could find some old toys out there. There he discovered a slingshot. He went out, wanting to find birds he could shoot with a stone. But he did not make any catch. He knew his grandmother would not want him to destroy the birds coming in the garden.

It was almost eleven in the morning. After the play with the slingshot, he switched on TV channel for Cartoon Network, spent time watching "The Simpsons" and "Tom and Jerry". He felt he had seen much TV already. He ran to the room where his mother was. He was so happy to see his mother already much awake.

“Mother,” with an excitement in his voice, “ Mother,shall we go now to the shop to buy Play station now?” His mother had already consumed one bottle of wine as it stood on the floor. Nicole answered him with words like that of a young child not as an adult.

“Shall we go now, darling?” She tried to stand up and could not hold her balance again.
Timothy wanted very much to scold her, to ask her why she was drinking and leaving him alone, why she sounded like a child but Timothy did not have the words of an adult.

Mother, he said, “You said, you will buy for me a play station today. You said that, mother.”

“What?” Nicole raised her voice. “ Play station? Do you know how much is that? We don’t have that money.”

“But mother you promised, mother, you said it yesterday”, the boy insisted.

Nicole said, “Ok, child, we can do it when we go back to Odense. We will do that next week after this holiday. There I have money.”

But mother, you said it tomorrow you promised tomorrow. You said it and today is tomorrow”

“Did I say that?” Nicole tried to find clarity in her mind.

“Yes, mother you said it and today is tomorrow.” Timothy tried to convince his mother.

Very much confused, Nicole explained, ”But why do you need it when your father has given you a play station already? Darling, you have that already, can you not remember? It was the Christmas gift of your father!”

And Timothy ran out of the door sobbing. He was impatient to remind his mother about happened yesterday at the train station, about their bags they had lost and plus the lost play station game from his father.

Nadia and the grandmother followed the boy,as he was about to cross the street. They were very scared of the passing cars. Luckily, Nadia was quick to stop him and hold Timothy.

Speaking to her old mother, Nadia said,”It must be because Nicole promised this boy to buy a computer program, something like Play Station”.

The old mother of Nicole walked back to the house, through the room where Nicole was sipping the last drops of alcohol from the wine bottle. She grabbed it away from her and smashed it on the floor, sending some broken glasses on the floor. “How dare you to spend your holiday here with your child and kill yourself by drinking? Do you understand”? and she shouted with all the strength of her harsh voice.


Nicole smiled and sounded like a little child. “ Why did you break that bottle? Do you think, I will sweep the floor? No way, you were the one who broke the bottle.”

She touched the shoulder of Nicole,”You never come here with a wine bottle, do you understand? Do you understand? Never at all!” The mother of Nicole broke down in tears and closed the door behind her, while she heard the voice of Nicole screaming, “You don’t treat me as a small child? Do you understand?”

Nadia drove Timothy to the shop.
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