Coffee in a paper cup


The treats of youth.

Things potentially found in tradition or regular occurrences… generally built on something simple… often cherished at surprising levels.

The title of this essay probably should swap out the coffee with hot chocolate, since that’s one of the first ideas that races into my mind. Might have been after playing soccer on a crisp fall morning, or some weekend event on a chilly day. If a way to bring hot cocoa into the equation was possible, it had special moment potential.

Is hot cocoa a foundational element in special-memory-making? I say yes. Not a required element. Instead, make a list in your mind of items that always add a little something extra to a moment. Hot cocoa must be on that list. (Warm chocolate chip cookies and puppies must be on that list.)

Honestly, about the only way to shake my conviction on the subject likely would be to question me on mini-marshmallows. (There are those that argue two-sides of the hot cocoa equation. Mini-marshmallows in the cocoa… special. No mini-marshmallows… nice, because of course, it’s hot cocoa… but not special. Not an argument I agree with, but I readily admit it has merits.)

Soda was rarely in our home when I was growing up. Before you go applauding any special considerations for that, water was found in the fridge even less often. (Which was because we knew to head to the hose in the yard when looking for water. Duh. Or just use the faucet.)

The real reason was that soda was a special occasion beverage. Birthdays, holidays, guests coming over for dinner and so on. And often… likely to avoid fights and simply maintain a sense of peace… the kids were allowed to pick their own bottles if a purchase of soda was on the shopping list. I always went with strawberry.

Yes. Strawberry soda.

I think it might have been for two reasons: (1) I’m a Coca-Cola guy. Even though that was true then and true today, Coke was almost always around in cans at barbecues and parties and assorted moments. Making strawberry my selection for a special occasion soda choice made it exactly that… a special occasion choice. (2) I think, but can’t today confirm, that both of my sisters hated strawberry soda. I like it. When you are essentially outvoted in any decision afforded the kids, two rules of thumb for the outvoted to follow include: being consistent (everyone knew I would pick strawberry soda, so I didn’t really even need to be at the store for there to be a good chance a bottle would show up for the celebration), and, making choices that don’t tempt your sisters.

Back to the soccer field on a chilly autumn morning… visible breath… maybe some frost on the grass.

Somewhat with how I dubbed strawberry soda the beverage of special occasions, part of the vision here is establishing a setting. Or, maybe more precisely, an atmosphere. Great memories and meaningful moments can occur at the most basic of times. You don’t need a calendar with highlighted, circled, marked up dates with reminder notices in order to create meaning.

I have no significant statistics of car sales, but it sure seems like manual transmissions are disappearing. When I was younger, getting in a car and seeing a stick shift was not at all uncommon. And if I close my eyes, I have no problems placing myself in the back seat of a friend’s car, as his father placed a hand over his son’s on the gear shift while we drove along. (I won’t even mention the idea of sitting on dad’s lap while driving the final few hundred yards into the driveway.) Different times… quiet moments… still meaningful.

What I am thinking of here though is a bit more. Like a traditional stop for an ice cream sundae after a school event. But I will admit… perhaps that bit more isn’t necessary.

Remember Burger Chef?

(Quick side note, because I absolutely cannot resist this. Burger Chef had two mascots… Burger Chef and Jeff. Do you know who voiced Burger Chef? That would be Paul Winchell. You know, Tigger.)

Ok… remember Burger Chef? They had that amazingly inspired toppings bar inside their restaurants.

In those years before I became a teenager (and probably for a couple after I reached that mark), my grandfather was known to bring the grandkids to Burger Chef. It usually happened on days when he drove to our house on his own, without Meme.

Family history and legend has it Pepe would say the kids looked like they needed to eat and we’d wind up loading into his car and heading off to Burger Chef. Possibly true… more likely his little thing to say that would then allow him to sneak the kids away, spend some time with us, while also feeling like he had given our parents a bit of a break.

I miss Burger Chef. A lot. There’s a really good chance if you asked me about bringing back one place to eat that I can no longer visit, Burger Chef would be the answer. (And I only say that there’s a possibility that I would pick something else because I could be missing something… I don’t think I am, since I don’t have a second option that comes to mind at all.)

Right now, though, I’m craving hot chocolate. I’d like to light a fire out back in the yard and grab some marshmallow fluff to toss in the mug. Not much better on a perfect fall day.


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