By age eleven Dr. Gersh had done what he promised to do and I was free and clear of any asthma and 99% clear of the allergies that I had acquired with it. I could eat everything except large quantities of milk, which I had to drink in moderation. Frankly, I didn’t really like milk anyway. It tasted bland. But now, and perhaps one of the most pinnacle points in my childhood, I could eat what I had longed for in all of my first eleven years of life – chocolate!
Growing up and being allergic to chocolate left me with distaste for holidays that involved candy. I hated Halloween. My brother and I would go trick or treating with our plastic pumpkins or pillow cases and at the end of the night we would dump all of our candy on the kitchen table. My mom, protective as ever, would diligently sort through the candy and separate it. She would separate all of the vanilla candy into one pile and all of the chocolate candy into another. My brother would wind up with a large stock pot of candy and I would wind up with a pasta bowl sized candy conquest. It never seemed fair. Especially since I put just as much time and effort into the evening and in my costume as he did. But I knew if I ate the chocolate I might risk having another asthma attack. And my Mom would fearfully remind me that I didn’t want to have a set back and wind up back in the hospital again like I did when I was a toddler. By the time I was able to eat chocolate without any risk, I pretty much outgrew Halloween.
For all of the same reasons I abhorred Halloween, I wasn’t a big fan of Easter either. My parents would usually substitute a big stuffed bunny instead of the chocolate one like my brother would get in his basket. But then they also felt the need to make my basket as full as his basket in order to make it seem “even” and the amount of jelly beans they put in my basket was unreal. In fact, I wonder if they knew that I didn’t even like jelly beans or any jellied candy whatsoever. But it was cheap and it was the thought that counted.
Before I fully outgrew my allergy for chocolate, my mom would put a miniature white chocolate bunny in my basket. It couldn’t have been more than four inches tall. It was tiny. Even though I think she knew it wasn’t really chocolate, I still was only allowed to have one piece at a time. There was no over indulging in the faux chocolate bunny. I would always start off by breaking off the ears but then I had to wrap it back up. I usually put in the freezer to make it last for months because to me, this was a privilege and this ‘chocolate’ was a special treat. I was going to make it last for as long as I could.
But then the moment came. I remember it like it was yesterday, the moment I had my first candy bar! I was eleven years old and the doctor gave me the go ahead to eat chocolate with no limitations. I couldn’t wait to get home and have my first piece of the decadent treat that I had longed for since I could remember.
My mom gave me one dollar after dinner and sent me around the corner to the 7-Eleven store. When I walked into the store I headed straight for the candy aisle. Now, instead of only looking at the vanilla flavored candy which was usually on the top and bottom rows, I had to take in the whole buffet of chocolate in the middle rows in front of me. It was such a hard choice to only pick just one. How on Earth was I going to decide? I was overwhelmed. There were so many options.
At first I contemplated a $100,000 Grand bar that my friends on the street would sometimes taunt me with by taking a bite and letting me watch the gooey thick caramel and chocolate drip from the end of the candy bar into their mouths while they grunted Mmmm and mumbled that it was good. But I didn’t like caramel all that much so I ruled that out and moved to the Reese’s Peanut butter cups. But I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I knew I liked peanut butter but it seemed awfully small and I wanted to get the biggest piece of chocolate as I could for my dollar.
So after long deliberation, I finally settled on a Kit-Kat bar. I was fascinated by them anyway. While I was allergic, when waiting in line at the checkout stand at the grocery store with my mom, I would fondle the Kit-Kat bars and break them in fours so that each stick would be separated. Something about feeling them break apart through the foil wrapper between my fingers felt neat and powerful at the same time. Similar to that feeling you always get when you crumble a piece of tin foil in your hand.
When I finally made the decision to purchase the Kit-Kat bar I searched for one that hadn’t been broken. I didn’t want my first experience to be ruined like I had ruined it for other people. I found one, purchased it, and ran home with it as fast as I could. Mom and Dad were sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me with big grins on their faces, excited to see what I selected. My mom asked,
“So what did you decide on kid?”
I pulled the Kit-Kat bar out from the bag and handed it to her.
She exaggerated ever so slightly for my benefit. “Wow! A Kit-Kat bar! How about we start with just half for now since this is your first one? You don’t want to overdo it.”Overdo it? I have eleven years to make up for here, I thought. But that was absolutely fine with me because I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin from the anticipation.
She broke it in half and gave me two sticks. I broke the two sticks in half and ate one by one slowly, savoring every little bite. This was serious business. I started by biting each end off of the stick ever so carefully only to eat just the chocolate and leave the wafer in tact. Then, I started nibbling the sides off, again just the chocolate, until it was just the wafers with chocolate in between the crisp flaky layers. Finally, with no mercy, I munched down the rest of it. It was everything I imagined it would be. It was creamy and delicious. I was in chocolate heaven. There was so much more to explore in the world of chocolate. I could hardly wait until my next trip to the grocery store.