At the orchestra concert, my father and I split a chocolate bar as we sat in the audience. I asked him if it was dark, I prefer the bitterness that dark chocolate spreads on the tongue. He flipped the bar over, looked at the label and told me that it was milk. Still, I ate each piece that he broke off and handed to me; a way of accepting the things he can offer. My father was particularly interested in the percussionist, keeping a watchful eye on him, noticing that the ends of his drum sticks looked like marshmallows. Because the lights were dimmed, my father handed me the program at the beginning of each piece of music asking me to read him its name. I whispered the name and composer. In return my father whispered minor critiques and observations in my ear–“If they would have just played a bit faster” or “Dan must have really liked that piece, he was the first one to clap” or “The guy with the white shirt is standing out. Where is his black jacket?”–My mother, who sat five rows ahead of us, hardly turned around. Only when the conductor mentioned certain composers did she look over her shoulder, not to see us but to see my reaction to names like Dvorak or Mancini. Being pleased with the grin through my lips, she turned her head back toward the orchestra and whispered some inaudible speech into my step father’s ear.
By this time the remaining chocolate had melted, becoming softer and softer in its plastic wrapping. And I was not surprised that it had melted, that my father and I could no longer enjoy it with the clean ease we once had, dropping a square into our palms, taking time to put it into our mouths. Now we had to work for its sweetness just as my family has always had to put more effort into holidays, birthdays, recitals–always sitting separately or organizing two events instead of one. But this is how it works for us. And now I am understanding that brokenness does not extract sweetness, only makes it easier to share. A chocolate bar is no less sweet when it is broken and shared. In the same manner, my mother and father broke apart and shared themselves with new people.