Go ahead. Dig in! Life is too short to be sad.
"All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!" –Lucy van Pelt, Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz
As a former cheerleader, the mom of two former cheerleaders and a former cheer coach, I am very much aware that this is the season of cheer tryouts.
We went through many cheer tryouts in my household–most of which turned out very well–one cheerleading tryout didn’t end the way I’d hoped. I remember it well.
I pushed through the crowd of other ponytailed girls for a glimpse at... the list. It had been four hours since freshman cheerleading tryouts and now was the moment of truth.
Out of 64 girls vying for six spots on the Bedford North Lawrence High School Freshman Cheer Team, had I made it? My eyes scanned each number–where was 23? I looked down at the number on my chest, just to make sure it didn’t match any of the six numbers on the list, but I already knew the answer. I hadn’t made the squad. I’d been a cheerleader in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, but I’d have to sit on the sidelines my freshman year in high school.
I felt like I’d been run over by a huge truck and then backed up over again. I congratulated the girls in the corner who were already celebrating having made the squad, and then I walked out the gym door toward Mom’s car. She’d been waiting patiently. It was one of the longest walks of my life.
Before I could utter the words, “I didn’t make it,” she already knew.
Mom didn’t say a word, she just reached over and hugged me. As we drove home, the car was silent except for the short bursts of sobbing coming from my side of the Cadillac. Then she stopped in downtown Bedford.
“What are you doing?” I asked, wiping the mascara from my face.
“I’ll be right back,” she said.
When Mom returned, she had a bag from Hoover’s Candy Store. She handed it to me and said, “Go ahead. Dig in! Life is too short to be sad.”
I smiled as I peered into the little white paper bag filled with double-dipped chocolate-covered peanuts–my all-time favorite candy in the world.
“Thanks,” I said, biting into my first double-dipped delicacy.
And so the tradition began. Anytime there was something to get over or something to celebrate, we did it with chocolate. We didn’t overdo it. A truffle here. A turtle there. But the tradition has remained strong throughout my life.
When I decided to try out for cheerleader again my senior year and made the Varsity squad, we drove straight to Hoover’s Candy Shop and celebrated with–you guessed it–double-dipped chocolate-covered peanuts.
Years later, when my husband and I found out we were having a baby girl, Mom dropped off chocolate treats with pink cream filling in honor of the glorious news. When Mom won the City Golf Tournament, we split a Death by Chocolate dessert at a nearby restaurant. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! We’d have to agree.
Over the years, Mom and I baked chocolate-chip cookies; split rich chocolate desserts; cheated on our diets with York Peppermint Patties; and enjoyed each other’s company every time we were together. I’m pretty sure that when Mom arrived in heaven in May 2006, there had to be chocolate-covered peanuts awaiting her.
Today, I continue that chocolate tradition with my own daughters and remember the words Mom spoke to me the day the chocolate tradition began: “Go ahead. Dig in! Life is too short to be sad.”