Dear first born,
I miss you. I envy you. I think about you.
I have just received a text from you containing another slew of pictures from where you are. You are staying in a hostel with a view of the Mediterranean from a small Italian coastal town. Your views are stunning but your words accompanying the picture make me miss you even more. You mention the hundreds of steps it took to get up the hill carrying your backpack. You said you had felt like Frodo climbing the steps to get to the secret passage to Mordor. Yes. My worldly, yet nerdy, teenager just referenced her romantic Italian experience to a piece of Tolkien literature.
That’s my girl.
You have taught me many lessons but there is one very important one that I keep learning through you. I’ll get to that in a second.
Before you left, you gave me my birthday gift which I opened a few days ago. Included in the gift was a beautifully packaged chocolate bar. Let me rewind a bit.
Your love of chocolate-making began unexpectedly in Costa Rica when Paul gave you a chance to volunteer at Caribeans. I knew you were bored and needed something to get you going in the morning. You expected that this would be a chance to brush up on your Spanish and to make friends which you did. Your interest in learning about cacao and how to make chocolate was probably low or an afterthought. This volunteer gig allowed you to hop on the bike and be independent, something that you are so accustomed to being born and raised in the city.
You fell in love with the process of making chocolate. You appreciated it as an art in and of itself – the making was artist work and the final product was a delectable masterpiece. We came home from Costa Rica and you were full of life – ready for the world and all its possibilities.
But then you couldn’t find a job. That sucked. No one was going to hire you since you were leaving for Italy in the summer and leaving the city in the fall. At least you were honest about it. But then, as the synchronicity of life would have it, you were offered an internship by some local chocolatiers who had just started their business, Soul Chocolate. They were eager to hear about the cacao in Costa Rica and the process you had witnessed. You declined their offer because you wanted a paying job.
I think after that awkward interview at the local wax salon, and the fact that they were concerned you couldn’t do the receptionist job because you didn’t have a high school diploma, made you hit a low that you had never experienced. You weren’t used to not having a job. You have been working since you were twelve to save money for your travels. At one point, you were working four jobs when you were sixteen. You learned so much about life and what you enjoyed doing through work. And I could only stand by on the sidelines now watching you becoming increasingly frustrated with life.
I remember one night you came home and sat your dad and I down. You said maybe you weren’t going to do your semester abroad in the fall. You said maybe you should stay in Toronto and work at a cafe and live in a basement apartment with roommates.
Do you remember what I said?
I said, “That is probably the stupidest f*cking idea I have ever heard. You are scared. You are living deep in the unknown right now. And that can be scary. You have been talking to too many people scaring the shit out of you about the ‘future’ and ‘being responsible.’ Choosing this option is what frightened people who live inside boxes would do. You are not that person. Go to bed. Write about it in your journal. Confront it. This is what I am here to be for you – not your friend who keeps her mouth shut but your mother who is here to tell you the truth.”
I am pretty sure you thought I was harsh that night. We spent the next day together hanging out and I took more time to patiently explain what I meant. If money is the motivator, you will miss out on other opportunities that can lead to places where you least expect. Holed up in a basement apartment working at a local Starbucks probably won’t lead to adventures that take you deeply into yourself. Surrender and have faith. Make your intentions clear and look out for signs. And I also suggested you read The Alchemist.
And do you remember what happened? In the next day or two, you received a text from friends that needed you to babysit their kids while they were away for a few days. You were able to make some money taking care of children you love and who you have looked after since you were twelve. And then you received an email from those chocolatiers. They wanted you. They really wanted you. They felt really bad about not being able to pay you but they thought that they would reach out one more time.
And here is our text exchange after you received the email and you didn’t know what to do:
And you accepted. And you fell in love with making chocolate. You made chocolate from bean to bar. You brought home samples for us to taste, teaching us how to delight in the texture and identify the tasting notes. You talked about the cacao beans and where they came from. You talked about the experiments that you participated in with the owners who you adored – a young couple that LOVES what they do. Their passion reignited your own passion for enjoying life again. You started to make choices that brought you joy without worrying about the cost, the future implications, or what people thought.
And when I opened my gift a couple of days ago and I saw that chocolate bar you made, I was reminded of that lesson that you keep teaching me. When you sent us that video from Genoa, that video of you slowly finishing three scoops of gelato sandwiched in a freshly baked brioche, I couldn’t help but laugh at the lesson you were giving all of us. (Your siblings weren’t impressed at your callous disregard for their feelings, but I appreciated it.)
And this lesson that you keep teaching all of us is TO SAVOUR. To enjoy something slowly and completely. The word is derived from Old French, savorer “taste, breathe in; appreciate, care for.”
You are the expert on savouring. Whether it be a new scent you wear that makes you happy or the taste of well-made chocolate, you remind me to savour, to get lost in my senses. Savouring is the gateway to feeling ALIVE. I remember you describing a cacao husk tea infused with maple syrup with frothy milk added to it, something that they were experimenting with at Soul Chocolate. You described it in detail and with such appreciation for the combination and the way it made you FEEL. You made it for me one morning and I understood. Instead of rushing through a hectic morning, I stopped long enough to enjoy this moment with you. We were at your grandparents’ kitchen counter and we sipped it slowly together. The smoky sweetness hit the spot. And when we had finished, you rushed out the door to catch a train to the test kitchen and I continued the day with a greater appreciation for just about everything.
You may not want to make chocolate forever. But choosing to accept the internship was a gift. As you sit on top of the hill watching the sun go down in Cinque Terre, I know you understand how to savour it. Every experience is fleeting but you are learning to tap into the eternal NOW each time you stumble upon beauty and joy. By accepting that internship, you felt it. You felt that electric feeling of doing and creating something you love. Hold on to that. That is your compass by which you should live.
I know that there will be times when you doubt and you are afraid of not having enough and start aligning your choices based on money like buying Mr. Noodle in Italy to stay on budget. I get it. I lived on Corn Pops and Mr. Noodle after I moved out at 18. I wish I knew to trust that by doing things that brought me to that place of creative bliss, I would be fed.
I should have bought myself that good piece of chocolate that would have cost a week’s worth of food. You have taken it one step further by making it yourself and understanding that it is the process of creation that we learn to savour.
Thank you for being you.
I love you so very much.
(And I am out of chocolate. So hurry back will ya?)
P.S. Thank you for giving me permission to share this private letter. You are amazing and I am blessed to have you be one of the greatest teachers in my life.
100 days of love notes…