The Little Black Book

The Little Black Book

To some it is just a book.  A simple black, tattered three ring binder.  To me it is so much more.

This little black book is a treasure of memories.  Within it's worn, chocolate stained pages the story of a family unfolds.  As I leaf through it's pages I laugh, I cry and am overwhelmed with gratitude and love in my heart for this crazy family I call my own.  

In the pages of this book I feel my Grandma, my Grandpap and my Uncle Dick.  This book holds the heart of my past.  My grandparents built the foundation of this business at least three times over that I know about.  There is a tiny little chocolate shop that sits on a gray hillside in Etna, Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh.  I clearly see the cobblestone road of my childhood, the white clapboards and green screen door.  In through the door is the packing room. Greeted by shelves full of brown stock boxes and a ladder all five of us would climb to greedily fill our little white bags.  Grandma kept these under the old fashioned cash register for us.  Down the steep narrow stairs to the ground floor we would go, passing along the enrober,  and past the scary dark break room. You had to be really thirsty to drink the weird tasting water we drank out of rough stained coffee mugs.  And then we would file into the dipping room where my grandmother sat at the dipping table, sometimes with her sister Teti.  Here we would sit atop a can of nuts banging our feet against it to the rhythm of their hands dipping, swirling and scooping cluster after cluster.  I can still smell the roasted nuts and chocolate.  I still see her decked out in a sweat shirt to stay warm covered with an apron that could probably be used as a two man pup tent.  After that we would head back to the kitchen and stop dead on  the line.  We were never allowed to cross it. It is here we found Grandpap in his dark pants and white football jersey, hat on his head, sometimes a cigar in his mouth.  He would pat us on the head, smile and then there was always the dismissal  "Get these these kids the hell out of here."  It wasn't mean it's just what he said. After all there were five of us little scoundrels. Always a smile and a nod from Uncle Dick in his funny little paper hat that made him look like a line cook from a diner.  So much like my Dad but yet so very different.  

I continue to turn the pages.  Here are the newer memories, the humble beginnings of Snowflake Chocolates in Vermont.  Between the lines of recipes written is the story of my Dad.  These are the pages of transition from Banker to Candy Man.  Here is the sweat, tears and worry of my parents who had raised a family in a different world, a different house and a different time.  Here is where my father gave up working for "the Man".  Work is what he does, who he is and all he knows like his father before him.  The candy shop is his mistress and we have all at one point or another decided to join him in getting to know her.  There are through these pages little notes written in my mother's handwriting.  A gentle strong reminder that this business was not built by my father alone.  If you can raise five children then starting a chocolate business is nothing right?  Page after page I continue to read and there woven in the tapestry of this book is my handwriting, my brother Bob's, my sisters and others.  Like the finest of woven silk you see us all.  Between creams and truffles and fudge another generation is born and raised.  They grow up, learn to write and then you see their mark in our own history book.

This little black book is our future.  It is here that I dream for my sister Shelly, for my son Alex and hopefully future generations.   I see their notes scrawled across the page.  I am a ways to their means if that makes any sense.  I am not a candy maker.  I am afraid to light a gas stove.  But I can be one hell of a support team.  This job that can be so overwhelming at times has held us together as a family.  Within these pages are many laughs, mistakes, hugs, arguments and always love and forgiveness.  

This little black book is the bible of my son's future.  It will be the wisdom of hard working hands and a sharp mind that have taught him well.  This book will pass to him someday.  And I hope with all my heart that he too will see that is so much more than just another little black book.



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1 comment

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this story.

Sue Strang

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