Hallmark moment

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“Can I put the marshmallows in myself?” my son asks and my daughter echoes, “and could I have a spoon?”

He sips from a cup with a little cubby at the bottom for cookies. A prized piece of food paraphernalia, he painted it himself. The intense care with which they deposit marshmallows is bittersweet: I rarely manage to get them to pay so much attention to anything. I wish I could convince them to approach the wet socks and mittens, strewn across the kitchen floor, with the same enthusiasm. I’m tempted to flick at the pile of miniature marshmallows. Instead, I ladle myself a mug. It is salve to nerves shaky from the thousand distractions endured between the hill and home.

“I’m too tired to blow on it.” She tells him, “Dad, could you blow on it for me?”

I know it doesn’t need it; it’s so much ceremony. I recall that before coffee and tea, the courts of Europe were conquered by chocolate. Drinking chocolate. Or so says The True History of Chocolate 3rd Edition, a spoil of mine from the holiday season. For a moment I contemplate the gateway I’ve laid open. My own attention exhausted, my imagination puts them in powdered wigs, pinkies lifted.

(A belch and giggles.)

The table rocks as they wiggle in their chairs, long johns straining to cover anklebones and belly buttons. We overstayed and I’m filling them with this stuff before bedtime, my only carrot when sticks weren’t working. Here I imagine them as little Aztec elites, leering at me like the sacrifice, toothy, their lips crusting over with cacao. Meh, most of it sloshed onto the table anyway. “Go brush your teeth.”

Away, tiny fingers tracing scrollwork down the hallway wall. They listened.

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