Mom last visited me in Sacramento two Christmases ago. I was always apprehensive picking her up at the airport. She'd look me up and down, size me up then hit me with a zinger -- "What did you do to your hair? What's that on your feet? You gained weight!" Mom got to that certain age where she felt she survived life long enough that she could say anything she wanted, and she did.
On the drive home she ordered me to stop at a liquor store. She went in and started demanding unusual items. "I need red Vermouth. A bottle of bitters. Maraschino cherries. And some rye whiskey." I like my wine but don't do Vermouth and certainly not Bitters, whatever that is. I winced at the $7 price tab for the tiny bottle.
Once home, she took out two highball glasses and got to work. I watched as she slipped in ice cubes, assembled two shots of Whiskey, a dash of Vermouth, the tiniest splash of Bitters then topped it off with one of those cherries I used to eat out of a jar when I was a kid.
"Here," she said. "It's a Manhattan." We clinked our glasses and drank the strong classic cocktail that warmed up the winter cold. Oh, boy, did it. It became our drink that holiday when I came home from work. And even at 79, Mom went out with me after work to restaurants and bars when most middle-age Sacramentans went to sleep.
Mom came from another era. She and my father were blue collar factory workers with a small income, but you'd never know it. They celebrated life and threw grand, dress-up parties in our tiny apartment complete with cocktails out of "Mad Men" with the proper stemware and glasses to match -- frothy whiskey sours, daiquiris, highballs, martinis and yes, Manhattans.
Mom returned to her home in Florida. In October, I got a late night call that she unexpectedly passed away.
I made it through my first Christmas without her. But I still have those bottles of Vermouth and bitters. Sometime this week, I will make a Manhattan just like Irene made for me, raise my glass and toast her. Thank you, Mom, for reminding me no matter my job, income, age, problems or circumstances -- live life fully every day. Here's to you.
KFBK Senior Editor Judy Farah has more than 25 years news experience in New York, Los Angeles and Sacramento. She's edited the KFBK Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal the past 16 years while also directing the newsroom by assigning stories to reporters and scheduling guest interviews. Farah started out as a newspaper reporter on the East Coast, covering major stories as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press in Los Angeles, including the 1984 Olympics, the Oscars, Emmys, the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the criminals trials of the Night Stalker and the Hillside Stranglers.
Farah came to KFBK in 1996, and has helped direct coverage of five presidential elections, five governor's elections and the killing sprees of Yosemite Killer Cary Stayner and Scott Peterson. She reported live for two 13-hour days for KFBK from the 9-11 terrorist attacks. She was also the editor on KFBK's 2011 exclusive report that the Sacramento Kings were considering moving to Anaheim.
A graduate of William Paterson College in New Jersey, Farah has won three Edward R. Murrow awards, including one for Best Writing, while at KFBK. She's also earned three awards from the Northern California Radio Television News Directors Association for Best Series, Best Newscast and Best Sports Segment. She has also written for the Wall Street Journal, TV Guide, Los Angeles and Parents magazines. She was honored with a Jefferson Fellowship in 2009 and traveled to Japan, China and Hong Kong to study the Asian economy. In 2010, she was awarded a RTNDA RIAS Fellowship to travel to Germany, Belgium and Prague to study the European economy.
Farah currently is a national blogger for The Huffington Post and often speaks on news and social media. You can find her on Twitter @newsbabe1530
In her free time, Farah enjoys the outdoors by hiking along the American River bike trail and kayaking. A wine enthusiast, Farah's produced a monthly wine segment on KFBK the past five years and enjoys visiting our local foothill wineries.