When things start to feel dim, I try to remember salted caramel.
When my bones ache from exhaustion, I close my eyes and try to taste it. Sweet. Savory. Warm. Buttery.
I'd like to thank the Frenchman who, perhaps on a whim, thought to mar something as delicate as caramel with a pinch of sea salt. This is just too much goodness. Too pure. Too sweet. People can't handle the sweet.
But this salt. It knew better. It's an overachiever.
It scours away the crustiness of your palate, making space for the creamy vanilla-tinted flavor to flood your senses full-force. I let it seep in. There's no way not to smile.
Without the salt, the sweetness would come up short.
It's perhaps the most authentic, non-pretentious, most courageous flavor combination on the planet. (Oh, and don't argue that bacon chocolate cupcakes are any better. That's too easy.)
A few days ago, in quick succession: A pipe in the garage sprung a leak. Miles sprung a leak...a poopy, awful leak. The dog got into the diaper pail. The babysitter called in sick, twice. B thew some larger-than-life tantrums, the 3-year-old kind in which she follows you all over the house and flails about the tile floor because you said "no" to that thing, that little blasted thing that she wanted and you can't even remember what it was, but you can't give in because it would only reinforce the whole-house-full-body-contact temper tantrum. You stand firm, calm, reminding her that you love her, even when she's angry and screaming. I think for a moment, 2011 never made me any promises.
We had house guests arriving for the night. Dear, precious friends and their four children. And I worried the day would be all salt. salt. salt. salt. They'd have to dig their way to the guest room.
But then, B approached me with a tender apology and a request that I paint her fingernails while Miles napped. I love the process of painting her nails. The desire for pink sparkly fingers wins the battle against every molecule of her toddler being that wants to move. It's excruciating, the patience required to sit for 10 minutes. But she manages it. Is it dry yet, Mom? Is it now? Now? How much longer? Blow on it, Mom.
For the sake of beauty, she suffers.
At dinnertime, our friends filed through the door, one by one. Their youngest greeted Miles with an enormous grin and shouted "Baby!!" though she is just a baby herself, only a few months older than Miles. Their 4-year-old and 6-year-old embraced B and asked her immediately to play. She proudly showed him her sparkling pink nails. The parents exchanged weary hugs and smiles, fellow travelers on a perilous journey to bedtime.
And the whole house exhaled and absorbed the sweetness.
You've heard the cliche: this too shall pass. I'm learning that I don't want any of it to pass. I want it all: the leaky pipes and the tantrums and the sweetness that follows.