Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The candy test

When E got a last-minute playdate invitation on Sunday and G needed his nap, I took my sweet L out for an ice-cream date. I make an intentional practice of squeezing in alone-time dates with each of my kids as often as possible. They thrive, you know, in the company of their siblings. They know what it is to share and to compromise and to nurture. But they each blossom under the gaze of unshared attention, and so I try to give them each that gift weekly or so.

L's favorite thing is to go for ice cream. She gets the kids' cup, which is one scoop, but she usually succeeds in sweet-talking the counter person into splitting her scoop into two different flavors. Then she makes the difficult decisions -- gummy bears? M&Ms? Sprinkles? Oh, what is a girl to do?

I always order a malted milkshake. There are two reasons. 1) Yum. 2) Nobody else in my family likes malt, and so nobody steals my food asks to share.

We sat at a pink linoleum table with our treats and L, with the elegance of a lady at high tea, requested that I tell her a story. And then as her spoon lingered in midair a moment too long and she dripped ice-creamy sprinkles on my foot, this is what I told her.

I love chocolate malt balls, but I especially loved them when I was pregnant with each of the girls. During those pregnancies I craved malt balls -- in fact, they were the only craving I had. At least three times a week I stopped inside the little convenience store inside our building at work to buy a snack bag of malt balls. And because we're friends, I'll be honest with you and tell you that there were some weeks I needed malt balls every day.

As soon as we knew that I was pregnant for the third time, the lovely husband surprised me with a gift of malt balls. It was a weeknight and we had just gotten both girls to sleep and I was first-trimester-exhausted and he was so proud of his thoughtfulness and he should have been -- it was a delightful sweet gesture. He brought me this box of malt balls, huge, like the kind meant to be shared at the movie theater.

Wasn't that sweet?

Well, no. I opened the box and took the first bite and it tasted..not pleasant at all. It was a strange sensation, that this familiar flavor that I knew to have brought me pleasure in the past was bringing me none. I couldn't take another bite, and though I was five or six weeks' pregnant, in that moment I knew that tiny fetus G would be a boy.

With him, it turned out, I craved a near-daily Heath Bar. Yum. And in the intervening time, malt balls have tasted delicious again, but never as delicious as when sweet L was last still in my belly.

I told her that on Sunday as she ate her grape ice cream with chocolate ice cream with sprinkles, and she filled with a specific pride. And that, of course, is the point of our alone-time dates, although my milkshake was really delicious, too.
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