Few things in life are better than a simple pleasure:
Fresh sheets on your bed. A toddler’s belly laugh. Peanut butter on a spoon. Using all your letters in a single turn in Scrabble. A glass of good champagne. Dancing like a goofball to Ice, Ice Baby.
The little things, to me, are better than fancy vacations or milestone purchases or holidays because they come without anticipation, and, possible disappointment. Small treats are the stuff of ordinary days; tiny surprises that brighten us in the moments that, strung together, comprise our everyday lives.
It’s a little shiver of pleasure. A recognition that life is, indeed, good.
For me, the very best small pleasures are Proustian; it’s the closest thing we have to time travel, transporting us involuntarily to a sweet, ordinary moment where we felt most happy and loved.
And what small pleasure achieves this more than chocolate milk?
Chocolate milk is the very taste of childhood itself.
In my childhood home, my parents were fairly strict; there was no eating between meals and sweets were for after dinner.
My sisters and I would wait for my parents to do an errand, then, on hearing the slam of car doors and the crunch of the gravel as they pulled away, we would dash to the kitchen and make preparations for the Milk Festival.
The Milk Festival involved a jug of milk, a squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup (I can’t imagine that it wasn’t Hershey’s) and just about every mug, tea cup and glass in the house. We would make chocolate milk, more chocolate than milk to be honest, and place ourselves at varying positions at the table surrounded by a sea of milk-filled cups. We would each raise a glass and say in Romanian-sounding accents, “Welcome to the Milk Festival.” Taking a huge gulp into our mouths, we would hold it chipmunk-like in our cheeks until one of us laughed, spewing chocolate milk in a John Belushi-esque spit take. Sometimes we would gargle the milk, heads thrown back, until we exploded into human chocolate milk geysers.
In the end, vast quantities of chocolate milk were consumed. We would clean up the whole mess in the nick of time, upon hearing the tell-tale gravel crunch and slamming car doors of our parents’ arrival.
We would have to stifle our giggles, later, when my dad stood in the fluorescent light of the open fridge, and say, puzzled, “Where did all the milk go?”
Today, when I make chocolate milk for my boys, I pour ice cold milk into their favorite plastic mugs (the ones with the faces on them), and give that satisfying squeeze of the Hershey’s bottle, the shiny chocolate ribbon swirling into a bubbling, milky awesomeness.
And, as I stir it up, I think of the Milk Festival.
I lick the spoon and am 10 years old again.
Photo Erik Ekroth