Having moved from the land of perpetual summer, Hawaii, snow was simultaneously a perk and a drawback. Now that my family and I were back to the land of four seasons in Kansas, we had the chance to sled, ski, and get into snowball fights with the neighborhood kids. But snow also meant snow-related chores: including shoveling.
Leavenworth had unique housing for us Army families. Usually we lived in a single-family home; on this post we lived in roomy apartments, four units to a building. Since my family was constantly teased about the lack of care given to our green space in Hawaii--no yard-of-the-month award for us--we didn't miss the lack of a yard to call our own. There was enough green space on the post for us to spread out on, should we want it. But there was still snow to shovel when Mother Nature dumped that white stuff on us. Our apartment was upstairs, so part of what we shoveled were old, iron stairs. They were tricky to clear off with a big ole shovel like you use when shoveling snow.
But that didn't stop my parents from handing that shovel to me and telling me to just get it done. So I did just that: grabbed the shovel and just...sigh, got it done. No use complaining. Out loud, anyway.
One winter day, when I was heading out to shovel the tiny back porch and the stairs, my mother and our family friend Bill were chatting in the kitchen. I kept to myself the unfairness of life--the fact that they got to stay warm and cozy while I had to go out and freeze while keeping the stairs clean and safe. I kept my grumbling to myself, but there were grumblings a-plenty in my head.
Just as I opened the door, Bill asked me, "Want something that will warm you up?"
There was no doubt about my answer: of course I did! He pulled out a long box full of fancy chocolates. I had no idea why these chocolates would warm me up, but they were a) chocolates, b) in front of my face and c) being offered to me. I wasted little time. I selected one covered in gold tin foil, thanked him, and took off my gloves to unwrap and eat it.
As I unwrapped it, I noticed that the chocolate was shaped like a bottle. I didn't think much of it. Bill suggested that I pop the whole thing in my mouth. He was smiling. My mom was smiling. I didn't know what they were smiling about. Maybe about the fact that I was going to go freeze while they had another cup of coffee...? So I popped in in my mouth. The chocolate soon started to melt as my tongue held it in place, and I rolled it around my mouth, covering it with milky chocolate. It was good, and I thought about asking for another. Impatient me then moved the chocolate over to the left side of my mouth and crunched down on it.
It was then that I got it. I understood why they were smiling so big. I understood why the chocolate was bottle-shaped. I understood why this was going to warm me up. There was alcohol inside this piece of chocolate! This was my first experience with alcohol, and I wasn't prepared for it at all. My eyes widened as my body tried to figure out these new tastes--strong, bitter, unfamiliar, and...warming. As I chewed and swallowed, the warmth slid down my throat and, as if magically, warmed my body as it went down. My chest was warmer, my core was warmer, my legs down to my toes were warmer.
I did not ask for another, but shoveling snow was a whole lot more pleasant after one of those cordial-in-chocolate pieces!