Last year on my birthday, my family and I went to Sapphire Laguna Restaurant for a celebratory dinner. As we waited for our table at the bar, sipping glasses of a refreshing Pinot Grigio, my dad snuck off into the crisp Southern California night air. Ten minutes later he returned with a small white sack which he tucked into my hand with a shy smile. I peered inside and grinned when I saw its contents -- a single milk chocolate almond turtle from the Chocolate Soldier, a high-end chocolate shop hidden away in the shopping complex next door.
That night, even though I had already devoured a sizable piece of my mom's chocolate ice cream roll cake with raspberry puree, I couldn't get the image of the glistening turtle out of my head. I got out of bed, stumbled across the room and tore off a piece of the two-inch diameter confection. The lustrous Guittard chocolate snapped in my mouth, decadently coating my tongue with a layer of creamy sweetness. The ample chocolate covering was perfectly married to the slightly resistant caramel and crunchy whole almonds inside -- I was in heaven and could scarcely keep from finishing the rest of the exquisite treat.
When I opted to stay at home for my family birthday dinner this year, I didn't imagine that I would be receiving any white paper sacks from the Chocolate Soldier. South Laguna Beach can be a significant trip from my parents' home in Newport Beach, and with gas prices fastened to a rocket ship to the moon, I doubted my dad would want to make the trek down PCH.
Clearly, I underestimated the power of love. (And the power of my princess-esque sensibilities.) As I walked into my parents' living room the Saturday before my birthday, I was delighted to discover not just a white sack, but a telling white box. Unable to resist a sneak peek at my favorite turtles, I carefully removed the pale pink ribbon and peered inside. Three large turtles (one dark, two milk chocolate) and two square chocolates stared back at me. I squealed in delight, refastened the bow and spent the rest of the day dreaming of the coming work week when I would enjoy them.
Today, as I near the end of my box of chocolates, I feel slightly melancholy. Not just because I have to go back to my standby Trader Joe's milk and dark chocolate cashews, but because the chocolate turtles remind me of my dad's softer side. Every time I pull out the box from its place in my desk drawer, I think of him driving down PCH to procure my favorite turtles for me. Even though our relationship has had its opens and downs over the years, he still loves me enough to buy me over-priced chocolate on my birthday. It's almost better than the hot pink iPod Nano my brother gave me.
Almost, but not quite. Or as my dad would say with a shake of his head, "Close, but no cigar."