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By: L. Azar

I won’t. I won’t. I won’t cry and I will not get excited.That is what I determinedly told myself about one thousand times as I stood in a massive pool of balsamic vinegar last Sunday.

In the days before I owned a fridge guard that blocked my refrigerator from opening - AKA last Sunday - my 21-month-old son was infatuated with the fridge and even more enamored with its contents. There was no limit to what he could explore within and little I could do to stop his small, quick hands from trying.

On one of those bygone days, before the fridge guard changed everything, I heard the ominous clanking of glass. I dropped my sponge and soiled pot like a hot potato to investigate. Just in time, I lifted a full bottle of balsamic vinegar from the floor. Phew! This glass bottle of vinegar is still intact, I thought - erroneously. And I proceeded to do precisely what I should not have done: I picked up the bottle to replace it in the fridge, this time on the top shelf, out of reach.

My toddler pouted.

In what seemed to be slow motion, the base of the bottle split off from the top, and the vinegar made its fateful journey from the top shelf to the kitchen floor. Crash! In true conformity to the laws of gravity and physics, deep brown liquid cascaded like a chocolate fountain down the shelves, leaving its mark on every shelf and drawer. The erstwhile bottle was reduced to a heap of shattered green debris all over the kitchen floor. I felt light-headed as I took in tins, containers, fruits, and vegetables all united in their brownness and heady aroma. The noise, the smell, the sight before me was too much; I grew dizzy. In a fog, I removed a shell-shocked toddler from the “crime scene” and absently plopped him in his nearby highchair. “Don’t. Move!” I hissed. (I think he knew I meant business, my little one, because he moved nary a limb for the ensuing twenty minutes.)

And then the emotions started pouring in like… a bottle of spilt vinegar. What just happened? What do I do? Where do I start? How?! My mind raced at full speed.I stood there for quite a few minutes feeling infinitely overwhelmed. The panic only increased when I realized that my begged-all-morning-till-they-squeezed-us-in doctor’s appointment was only twenty minutes away.

I was near tears.

“Mommy, kean up da mess!” I heard my sweet boy say from his highchair.

I think it was the longest sentence uttered by my child to date, and certainly the most substantial. His toothy smile conveyed his sheer delight as he feasted his eyes on the mayhem before him.

Those sweet words were just what I needed to hear to squelch the mounting headache within me. It was at that moment that I made a conscious decision: I would smile. I would not let this raise my blood pressure by even one tiny bit. I jumped up, sauntered over numerous puddles across the kitchen and turned on the music. Then I took some pictures of the scene to capture the evidence. “I love you!” I yelped to my little one some ten or twenty times. To tell you the truth, I felt like superwoman!

Equipped with a new attitude, eradicating the vinegar from my home was even enjoyable. As in, fun! In the few minutes that remained until I needed to leave for the doctor’s office, I scattered the contents of my refrigerator into every nook and cranny of my kitchen counters, totally heedless of the additional puddles I was creating on the floor. After all, a tornado is a tornado; what did I have to lose? With that, I grabbed my pocketbook and, several minutes later, plopped down into the waiting room chair. The mess? Ha! I’d deal with it later. I smiled blissfully, as yet unaware of the stares bearing down on me, most likely because of my tights, which were splayed with an exotic array of brown polka dots.

Two hours and news of an upper respiratory infection later, I retackled the mess at home. With only two rolls of paper towels, and several more rounds of mopping, that room looked like a kitchen once again.

You see, almost any challenge, small or large, is easier to bear when you choose to smile through it.