"Take a sip, Sara," Mom whispers in my ear, "let the chocolate taste sweep you away." Holding the steaming cup in my small, gloved hands, I hesitantly put my mouth to the straw and suck a tiny drop into my mouth. Immediately, my mouth is a river of chocolaty goodness, my taste buds jumping for joy. Mom laughs at my surprised face as I slurp half the cup in one big gulp, hot cocoa dribbling down my chin. "Delicious!" I yell excitedly. The sound echoes throughout our whole house, bouncing off of tinsel-covered walls and our enormous holly tree strung with lights. "I knew you would like it!" Mom giggles and gives me a big bear hug, "It's a family recipe!" I cuddle in closer to her, still sipping the cocoa. Something about it comforts me, sinking my body into a wonderful warm feeling. It's a shame my family only makes it during Christmastime. I wish it was year-round!
"What's the secret," I eagerly ask, "how do you make it?" Mom gives me a small smile. "It's actually the Hershey's recipe. Rather common. We just add a little flair!" Mom gets up and grabs my hand. Together, we head to the kitchen. Dad is still outside putting up our decorations, so the house is kind of empty. Just me and her. I begin to bounce excitedly as Mom gets out the ingredients needed for the cocoa. "I didn't make enough for your father," Mom explains as she rifles through her spice cabinet, "and I would love to teach you how it's done. Brooke style!" I clap my hands, eagerly waiting to begin.
For the next half hour, Mom instructs me on just the right amount of cocoa to put in, how to gently mix the ingredients together, and how not to burn myself! Finally, we have a steaming glassful for my dad. "Done!" I throw my hands up dramatically, hoping Dad would come in right now. I can't wait to see the look on his face!
I bring my hands down in disappointment. Haven't we followed the instructions? What else must we do?
Mom sees my face and gives a secretive grin, "You almost forgot my secret ingredient Sara." She goes to the cabinet and pulls out a bag of....marshmallows? The recipe didn't call for marshmallows! Is she crazy!?
Mom hastily walks over to me. "Quick," she exclaims, "drop three in the glass before it cools down. Three marshmallows. Only three. Got it?"
Confused, I nod and stick my hand in the bag. I find three perfectly squishy ones and yank them out. Then, with careful precision, I drop them into the cocoa. They bob on the surface for a second, then just float around the cup. "What was that for," I ask, still a bit unsure, "They're just floating." Mom gives me a playful squeeze. "Baby, how many people are in our family?"
And how many marshmallows are there?"
Mom nods, looking pleased. "The real secret ingredient is love and family. And it always will be."
Suddenly, I hear the front door open and close swiftly. The footsteps of my dad quickly follow, heading straight towards the kitchen. When I see his face, he looks tired, but he still has that spark in his eyes." Come here kiddo," Dad shouts as I run to his arms. He takes a long sniff as he plants a kiss on my cheek. "That smells like the famous Brooke family cocoa," Dad gasps happily. I run to the stove and give him his cup. The chocolate glistens in the light as the three marshmallows swirl around. I hope I made it right. After all, this is a family recipe!
Dad takes a giant gulp. His eyes widen in happiness as chocolate slowly drips onto his jacket. "Yummalicious!" Dad shouts, swooping Mom and I into a great embrace. As he sits down the cup, three marshmallows sit at the bottom of the glass. Mom suddenly scoops her hand in and pulls them out. I stare at the fluffy white delicacy as she places it in my hand. She gives another one to Dad and keeps the last. "Cheers," she says merrily, "to family. To love."
I smile big and wide. I have the best family ever. A goofy dad, a loving mom...….
I LOVE IT!
We all pop the mallows into our mouths and chew slowly. It's not as good as the cocoa, but something about it fills me with joy. It's almost like it was made with love.
I scroll through my phone, deleting all the Christmas ads in my email. Ugh. Why do companies decide to send you so much stuff during Christmas season? I'm so sick of this junk mail. Heck, I'm sick of Christmas. It's just a holiday full of yearning for material things and getting frostbite from the cold. Who wants that?
I remember a time when I loved Christmas. Making snow angels, decorating trees, making Christmas cookies, caroling....
Now the thought of that makes me sick.
Even my dad has given up on Christmas. He doesn't seem to care about anything anymore, let alone some stupid holiday. He's as sick and tired of it all as I am.
It wasn't always this way. Christmas used to be a break from reality, a time to just enjoy life.
Now it's a reminder of all my troubles.
You see, six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Seeing her so sick killed me. I was so used to seeing her bouncing around, full of energy. Now she looked halfdead and couldn't stop coughing. After about 3 months, her spirits died. And then, so did she.
She must have taken a piece of my father with her. He lost his spunk, his energy, his everything. And was left with nothing. A hollow shell, afraid to feel any emotion. Full of worry.
As for me, well...…….don't blame me if I can't get over the fact my mom died when I was ten. She will never see me graduate college. She will never see me start a family.
She will miss it all. Because of some stupid disease that decided to end it all.
Walking down the street, I feel snow begin to fall on my shoulders. It chills me to my bones and I shudder. I should have worn something more warm than just a sweater and long pants. Oh well. Nothing I can do about it now. As I walk, I think about all the homework I'll have when I get back from winter break. My high school teachers love to just pile on as much work as you can handle. Honestly though, I can take it. It's not SO bad once you get used to it.
The snow begins to fall heavier, coating the ground in white. Looking up from my phone, I realize I'm the only person out. What's worse, the snow is making things indecipherable, so I can't tell the way back to my house. Gosh dang it! Why do I have to stare at my phone while walking!
The breeze picks up and sends a spray of cold air at my face. My body starts shaking uncontrollably and my teeth begin to chatter. Oh good lorde.
I'm going to freeze to death out here!
Looking around, I realize I recognize where I am. I'm on the block that burned down around the same time Mom passed.
Nothing is left. The fire destroyed everything.
Oh fire. I would KILL for a fire right now. Anything to warm up. Anything.
"Can I help you Sara?"
I turn around quickly. There sits a middle aged lady. Her hair is graying at the edges and her clothes are faded and worn. But something about her face seems kind. But, stranger danger. "Who are you," I ask suspiciously, "and how do you know my name?" The old lady chuckles as if I'm amusing her or something. "Friend of your mom. Come with me and get warm." Sirens in my mind go off warning me not to, but at this point I might freeze out here. Going with a random, kind of creepy stranger seems like a better idea than just sitting out here getting more and more lost. "Okay," I start cautiously, "but just to get warm. Then I have to go." The lady just nods and grabs my hand. Surprisingly, her hand is warm to the touch. Though it's, like, zero degrees out here, this lady is WARM. This is so bizarre.
Walking hastily, she brings me to the only home still standing on this street. it doesn't look too great, but it will do. She unlocks the door and I hustle inside. It's SO warm! My shoulders begin to droop lazily. I let out an audible sigh and sink to the floor. "Stay here. I have something for you," the lady instructs sternly. as I lie down on the floor, I hear bustling inside her kitchen. Closing my eyes, I finally feel at peace with myself in this comfy home. Nodding off, I feel something thrust into my hand as I fade into a deep sleep.....
I wake up back at my own home, hot cocoa in hand, three marshmallows inside.