Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by cotton candy.
Maybe it was because it was such an rare treat. In the days of yore (read: the 1970s), cotton candy was reserved for the circus or the fair or some other infrequent-but-storied event. I loved to stand next to the cotton candy booth and watch the proprietor swirl a thin, paper cone in a seemingly empty bin and emerge with a cumulonimbus cloud of gossamer pink, precariously balanced on a tiny point.
"Here you go, sweetie," he would say to the lucky buyer, who would carefully take hold of the beautiful concoction and delicately try to find a place to bite.
So it goes without saying that, when our church was looking for volunteers to work at various booths during the annual community picnic, I jumped at the chance to work in the cotton candy booth.
It was a gorgeous Sunday night in late summer. The sun shone brightly; the light already held flecks of autumnal gold.
After the outdoor service, Corey and I gathered the kids and scooted through the dinner line (hot dogs, carrots, watermelon and chips) since I was first shift at the booth.
And that's how I found myself standing next to a machine that was spinning a cloud of pink sugar, clumsily wielding paper cones around the circle, passing off lopsided mounds of cotton candy to a throng of eager children.
The night was breezy, and I was near the edge of a picnic shelter. The wind caught errant wisps of candy and blew them into the crowd. Kids waiting in line opened their mouths to pluck a sparkling sample right out of the air. Delicate strands stuck to my arms, my face, my hair. (So intent and gleeful was I as Cotton Candy Maker Extraordinaire that I discovered this fact only when small children grinned my direction and shouted, "Mom, look at her hair!")
Halfway through my shift, I looked up and saw my daughter before me. Natalie was wearing plaid sherbet-colored shorts and a pink polo shirt. Her skin was tan, her hair pulled back in a pink headband. She looked utterly delighted.
“Why Natalie!” I exclaimed, as if she were my favorite customer, which, in fact, she was. “So happy to see you here tonight! Here you go!” And I handed her a cone heavy with sweetness.
“Thanks Mom,” she giggled, before turning to find Uncle Jon among the crowd.
Later, on the way home, when she was crashing like a little addict from an overdose of sugar, she sat in the back of the minivan and sobbed because the snow cone booth had run out of syrup before she'd gotten one. Suddenly, she sat up straight, found her composure and said, “Mom, do you know why I stood in your line to get cotton candy, besides the fact that yours was pink and that’s my favorite color?”
“No, Natalie," I answered, scanning her face in my rear view mirror. "Why?"
“Because you are my favorite person, Mom,” she said. "And I love you."
This post was originally published August 2008 on Kelly's personal blog, Love Well. She's at family camp this week, where she is too busy following her toddler around camp to write something new. But she'll be back next week, rested and refreshed, and extra happy for the toys at home.