Debra Swersky
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Journal

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Hot Chocolate

3:00PM. That is tea time. I’ve known that fact since I was young and have grown up with “who wants a cup of tea?” as a phrase-to-use for snack time long before I knew that it was a “foreigners” term. Everyday after school when I was a kid I had an afternoon snack: milk and cookies, or Crystal Light Lemonade and Nila wafers, or Swiss Miss hot chocolate (I didn’t know better!) and Teddy Grahams. But tea, that was a staple for my mom (Five Roses with a sweetener and skim milk). I acquired the taste for tea when I graduated from high school and always enjoyed coming home and catching up with my mom during tea time. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much in the way of our conversations, but apparently that didn’t stop me from repeating the tea time ritual… it’s still comforting to share that time with her.

Must be… “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Thank you, Maya Angelou.)

This past month I read “The Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. Chapter 8: “Yes to My Body” starts with Shonda Rhimes admitting to herself that she is fat. The chapter made me uncomfortable and nagged at me for a few days after I had read it. Full disclosure: I don’t think that I am fat. By all standard metrics and medical explanations, I’m not fat. (I’m “the sicko” that “trained [herself] to love salads.”) But, the chapter isn’t really about Rhimes and the fact that she’s fat. It is about understanding why she is fat so that she can say “yes” to appreciating herself. 

I felt plagued by this chapter because Rhimes talks about “food as a topcoat… seal[ing] off all of the parts that were broken… fill[ing] in all of the holes… cover[ing] up the cracks.” It hurts to read that passage and it hurt a bit more think about why. But, in doing so I came to understand my latest obsession with finding the best hot chocolate in Dallas… even though it feels like Spring. I’ve tied “hot chocolate” to my family.

If the “milk and cookies” thing wasn’t clear, my family loves desserts. (It’s a blessing and a curse.) Though we didn’t always grow up with homemade cookies, we’ve known about our sweet tooths for a long time. But when it comes to hot chocolate, we’ve walked the Brooklyn Bridge, taken special trips into Manhattan, and strolled through Harvard Square to drink hot chocolate from “the best” spots. We share a love for chocolate… and have always enjoyed cups together when visiting each other in our respective cities. It’s what we do. 

So… why am I saying “yes” to hot chocolate? Why am I obsessed with finding Dallas’ finest? I need to find it for my family. I need to find it so that they can share my new home with me… seal off all the parts of moving that are broken… fill in all the “having family close by” holes… cover up the cracks of relocating. I’m obsessed with finding “our thing” but in Dallas to share with them. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m still trying… [suggestions welcome]

Wynne Miller, my mentor, and long lost family member, gave me my signed copy of “The Year of Yes.” Aside from my family members, and the love of my life, Wynne has (probably) single-handedly had the biggest impact on my growth and development. Thank you, Wynne… not only for the book, but for giving me the priceless gift of understanding myself better. I am forever grateful for your courage, clarity, and wisdom… and Caribbean pie.

Debra Swersky