Memories and missed opportunities

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By Carolyn Risner

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I listened to an audiobook–Deliver Us from Normal–and one sentence from a very long book hung in my mind for days.

“Mom made us hot cocoa–with salt.”

Boy, did that bring back memories.

As a treat on cold winter nights, my mother would take out the Hershey cocoa powder and make a pot full of steaming hot chocolate.

In the days before Swiss Miss powder or Quik, Hershey’s cocoa was a staple in our home.

I’d forgotten how good it was but that one sentence brought it all back.

But it also made me wonder, “Did I ever make real cocoa for my children?”

Somehow I think it doubtful, because as I learned with mashed potatoes and stuffing, my trio preferred the fake Hungry Jacks and the Stove Top Stuffing over anything homemade. Chances are they would have taken the instant hot chocolate over the deep, rich cocoa.

And by not making them cocoa, I feel like I somehow was remiss in my duty as a mother to create a memory that could be stirred from one simple sentence from a book.

Sunday afternoon, with the thought still hovering around my head and the cold rain pouring down, I headed to the kitchen and made two hot chocolatey cups of the cocoa.

Yes, it was still as good as I remembered. Then and there as I savored its goodness, I vowed to treat myself to comforting childhood memories often and the next time I see my children to introduce them to real cocoa–even if it is July 4.


A couple weeks ago as I lay out the obituary page, I was struck with a sense of loss.

Now if you know me at all, you know that I am an avid obituary reader and I have been ever since I was a child.

The lives of people fascinate me.

So there I am laying in another obit and as I read it, I thought, “Darn it! She would have made a good feature.”

I later said to Tom that it seems like all the interesting people escape me until it’s too late.

The woman, Lieselotte Howard was a USO performer AND an interpreter for the Allied Forces during World War II.

How I would have loved to have spent a few hours with her, listening to her tales and then relating them to our readers.

The same thing this week with Alma Brookins, who over the course of her life was foster mother to 139 children.

Don’t you know she had stories to tell?

Years ago, it happened to me in Georgia when I discovered, yet again as I lay out the obituary page, that Albert Schweitzer’s son-in-law had died. He had lived in our community for years and yet no one knew that he was famous by association.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone.

Even if you never traveled the globe, held a public job or mediated peace talks, your life has interesting facets that need to be shared.

Sometimes the most ordinary events are the extraordinary moments that shape our lives forever.

I want to tell those stories.

I want to know you and I want our community to know what jewels lay in its bosom.

I don’t want to lose another opportunity to become familiar with my neighbors and let others know a side of you that many may not know exist.

If you know someone who has a story to tell–and don’t we all–please let me know.

Once you’re on the obit page it’s too late.

And stories–like real cocoa–are the things that change us, mold us and make us who we are.

Carolyn Risner is editor of the Chiefland Citizen. She may be reached at editor@chieflandcitizen.com or by calling 493-4796.


1/2 c sugar

1/4 c Hershey’s cocoa

Dash of salt

1/3 c hot water

4 c milk

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1-Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan; stir in water. 2-Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir two minutes. 3-Stir in milk and heat. DO NOT BOIL 4-Remove from heat and add vanilla. Makes six servings. Enjoy!