My grandfather lived in Holland for as long as I can remember, and when he came to visit us in the States he would always bring us Dutch chocolate. There would be Droste pastilles, bittersweet and milk sharing sides of the same tablet, or chocolate oranges, which were our favorite.
My brother and I would smack the orange and eat as many pieces as we could before my mother put them away in the fridge, allowing us one or two slices a day. At least that way they lasted longer.
Those chocolate oranges weren’t available in Illinois in the 1960’s. They were a token of affection meant just for us from our grandfather, and they were extra special because of their rarity.
When he passed away, I made it part of my gift to always give my brother a chocolate orange at Christmas. I was excited when they were offered here, at the local Walgreens, and I’d buy it with the same joy and anticipation I’d felt toward the ‘fruit’ when I was a child.
One year, a few Christmases ago, my sister-in-law looked at me across the table. “Would you do me a favor?” she asked in her loud voice. “Wouldja quit buying your brother those stupid oranges? I put them in the freezer because he forgets about it, and then I throw them away. Every year.”
I sat looking at her, and I didn’t have a clue as to how I should respond. Eventually, I just congratulated myself for not crying, and nothing more was ever said about it.
But, every year, when my husband and I see the chocolate orange, he says, “Let’s buy one for Charlene.” I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to mention it, for one thing. But, I also no longer want to share what was special to me with someone who doesn’t appreciate it.
This year, I’ve decided that I’m going to buy a chocolate orange, in dark chocolate if I can find it, and I’m going to unwrap the foil slowly. I’m going to remember my grandfather putting them in his suitcase, and carrying them all the way from Amsterdam to Chicago, just to give to my brother and I. I’m going to eat each slice one day at a time, as I used to do when I was six. I’m going to treasure the blend of chocolate and orange on my tongue, and not let any one rob my joy.
Because it’s easy to lose one’s joy. It’s easy to get discouraged, or sad, or lonely, or let down at Christmas. In fact, I suspect that’s one of the easiest times in the world that our joy can be stolen from us. But, let’s not allow that, shall we? Let’s not lose what we hold dear to hearts. Let’s treasure it, and keep it, and polish it up for the holidays. Let’s share it with others who will appreciate it like we do.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
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