Memories of hot cocoa—a cup of warm comfort

I used to drink chocolate milk when I was a kid; it was a real quick fix. Just pour some milk in a glass and add two tablespoons of the powdered chocolate and that was it. This wasn’t my favorite beverage, but it was a good enough drink to settle down with on a Saturday or after school on a weekday. Sometimes my mother bought the powdered strawberry mix, but I didn’t drink the strawberry milk. That often stayed right in the cabinet unused. It wasn’t until I was just out of college and visiting my aunt at Christmas when I tasted something different—hot cocoa. Now, I’m not going to say that I never had hot cocoa before because I’m sure that I did, but this time it was so memorable.

chocolate with marshmallows

Take an occasion like Christmas. Add on a spoonful of Christmas music like Donny Hathaway and little Michael Jackson from the Jackson 5 Christmas Album ( a classic in a lot of African American families).  Sprinkle in some family with just a pinch of understanding about how precious this Christmas was because it would probably be our last holiday with my aunt, who was dying from an incurable disease. Then serve this reality with a cup of hot cocoa fully loaded with marshmallows from the hand of that loved one. This made for a special cup of hot cocoa and a memorable experience.

My aunt was a very direct person—intentional in getting in your business, especially if your business was raggedy. She loved you straightforward. She was the kind of aunt that said what she thought and didn’t mince words, like the time she asked my 22-year old boyfriend what he wanted with an 18-year old girl. Talk about OMGeesh! Soooooo embarassing! Do you think I told her that? No way! I just went with the flow and watched him sweat. Survival of the fittest dude!

My aunt had no children of her own, but that never stopped her from making her influence felt. She was strong and intelligent and she expected her neices and nephews to be that way too. However, she was a little different on this Christmas. It was just a few months after we learned of the disease she had been living with for seven years. It had robbed her of her full-figure. It had stripped her of her smooth glowing brown skin and left a ash-gray cover over her normally vibrant brown complexion. She was frail—less than 100-pounds—but she was still just as strong, just as concerned and just as loving as ever. So that Christmas she fretted over her neices because she wanted to and since then, hot cocoa with marshmallows has always felt like a cup of warm comfort. It takes me to a time of love and celebration that was so fleeting and sweet, and much like those fluffy marshmallows I could just lay back on the memories and rest for a while.

My aunt died the following summer, but oh how I remember her unabashed love, advice and correction. I will also always remember the way she loved on me with a cup of warm comfort that made everything all right that one Christmas.

Click here for a homemade recipe for hot cocoa with marshmallows.