By Susan Donald
When I was a kid I spent a week every summer with my grandparents at their farm house in Phillipsburg, NJ. My grandmother, Mama, was a sturdy woman of mixed German and Scotch descent. I was the only daughter of her youngest daughter, who was the youngest of seven children. My oldest brother stayed for 3 weeks, as there were 4 of us and my grandparents could probably only handle 2 of us at a time. The first night of our stay was always a bit teary since I missed my parents very much, as most young children are likely to do. Having had seven children and numerous grandchildren, Mama knew of an excellent way to bridge the gap between tearfully waving at parents and siblings driving away and a peaceful night’s sleep for all. She would take us into the big old farm house kitchen with the circle of a florescent bulb casting a dim yellowish light on the big wooden table and make us some hot chocolate. Not the instant kind, the kind where you heat the milk in a sauce pan on the stove and then stir in the chocolate and sugar before pouring the delicious liquid into a mug. Then she’d get out a box of graham crackers and we’d talk and munch waiting for the cocoa to cool enough to sip without burning our lips. By the time we were finished, we had nearly forgotten about how much we missed our family and were looking forward to the week ahead, filled with lazy days playing by the creek, rolling down the grassy hill, card games, and feeding the black birds crusts of bread each night after dinner. There must have been a hundred of them. The lawn would be covered with them eating the bread and then they would take off as one forming a large black cloud as they noisily returned to the trees. I have never forgotten the healing power of hot chocolate.
When my oldest daughter was about 9 years old, I felt like she needed some prompting to talk to me about whatever was bothering her, and to get her homework done. I took to making us mugs of hot chocolate and just sitting across the table from each other. There is something about that which makes things cozy and invites confidences. It was with this comfort in mind that I packed up a dozen home made sugar cookies and a couple of packets of hot chocolate and tucked them into my daughter’s bag as she was leaving to return to college. Hot chocolate can really help make things cozy and homey.