Chocolate-covered Christmas Memories

©2005, Stephenie B. Freeman

Crying at the grocery store isn’t something I normally do, but this holiday season I just couldn’t help myself.  Strolling down the candy aisle, I browsed the shelves for candy to decorate my kitchen for the holidays.  Multi-colored gum drops, nougats with a Christmas tree in the middle, and milk chocolate Santas began to fill my shopping cart. 
It was then that I saw the chocolate-covered cherries. 
My eyes filled with tears as I reached for a box and held it close.  My nose began to run and my sniffling seemed to echo throughout the store.  Feeling silly and embarrassed, I inched closer to the candy lined shelves to hide my face between the bags of red and green M&M’s and festive Hersey’s Kisses hoping no one would notice.
It is not unusual to find yourself choked up at the smallest of things during the holidays.  Maybe for you it is a sentimental Christmas song on the radio that brings a tear to your eye.  Maybe it is a special ornament from your childhood that puts a lump in your throat.  During Christmas the smallest of things seem to carry with them the biggest of memories; memories that fill your heart so abundantly that they cannot help but spill out, overwhelming you with emotions that you forgot you even had.
Chocolate-covered cherries were always my Cousin Joe’s favorite, so my grandmother bought him a box every Christmas.  Being like most grandmothers, our grandmother didn’t want anyone to feel left out, so she began buying each and every family member a box.  Even though my grandparents didn’t have a lot of money, when it came to Christmas you would never know it.  There were always an overwhelming amount of Christmas presents under the tree, including the chocolate-covered kind.  After all the “real” presents had been opened, only the small, rectangular boxes would remain.  As they were passed, inevitably some one would say, “I wondered what these could be?” and everyone would begin to giggle. 
As our family grew, so did the boxes of chocolates.  Every new spouse and great-grandchild would receive his or her own box that would be carefully wrapped and placed under the tree with the rest of the gifts complete with bow and gift tag.  I remember the first Christmas that my husband opened box.  He looked at me confused, so I quietly whispered to him, “It’s okay.  Only Joe likes them.”  Before I could stop him, my husband reached across the room and handed the box to my cousin.
“Here Joe.  You can have mine.”
The ripping of wrapping paper came to a halt.  The sipping of egg nog ceased.  All of the Christmas chaos abruptly froze as if Jesus himself had walked into the room to wish us all a Merry Christmas.  We starred at my grandmother, expecting her eyes to well up with disappointment and pain.  Instead, she smiled at my naive husband.
“Well after all these years.  Someone in the family that doesn’t like chocolate-covered cherries!  I guess it was bound to happen!”      
In our family, the boxes of chocolate-covered cherries were the fruitcake that no one ate.  As a child I remember thinking, “I don’t even like these!”  The truth was no one did, but every single one of us packed them up with the rest of the presents and took them home.  It was our family’s holiday tradition and they were something that we loved to hate.
There won’t be any chocolate-covered cherries this year.  My grandmother recently passed away leaving the rest of us behind to miss her terribly and to wonder who will buy the chocolate-covered cherries.  We never ate them; we even laughed about them.  Now we wanted them more than ever. 
Standing in the candy aisle that day, I was tempted to begin to fill my cart with the chocolate-covered memories of my grandmother.  I turned to my youngest son who was sitting in the cart and smiled through my tears.  As I handed him a box, he grabbed it and smiled.  I wiped away a tear as I kissed him on his bald head. 
“One day,” I told him, “you’re gonna love to hate these.”

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