Regardless of wondering how I came to the conclusion around cheesecake being better than men or why it took so long, know that these ponderings reflect both the very nature of love and the irrefutable deliciousness of cheesecake. The book-to-be isn’t about hating men. It’s about loving cheesecake a little bit more.
Love is a wonderful thing. When you have it, when you are in it, when it is all around you, nothing else seems to matter. Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, says that love is the highest achievement we can reach and that in the worst times of his imprisonment it was love that got him through. He ascribed love as our highest goal, our deepest meaning, and our Truth.
I thought it was a spotless house and a blemish free complexion. I feel I may have been misguided somewhere in my youth.
Donny was my first love. We were in the second grade and he was the cutest boy in the class.
Donny and I, upon the first day of second grade, became almost inseparable, sitting next to each other during reading time, playing together at recess, saving each other a seat at lunch, and even playing together after school and on weekends. My eight-year-old heart had found its twin flame. I felt inspired to do things like write our names with swirls and arrows, wear nail polish, and beg my mom for “nylons…not tights.” I was clear to let her know that this was not the puppy love of first grade. This was the real thing. My mom catered to my insistence so far as to agree to purchase tinted lip gloss from an Avon lady who lived next door to Donny and his family.
The Avon lady had a small light blue cottage with a laundry line connecting the front of her house to metal cross in her front yard , beyond which was a white statuesque Virgin Mary birdfeeder. The Avon lady seemed to always be out there, like round floral angel, taking down and putting up more laundry. She was what I imagined Kansas to look like.
News spread of her fruit scented lip glosses and peel-off cucumber masks. She was flocked by elementary aged girls on the regular. We were like kittens lapping up milk in a kitchen that smelled like lilacs and lily of the valley, vying over make-up selections. She was kind enough to give us all our own catalogs to peruse and samples to take home to our mothers. I would be hard-pressed to imagine that my mom ever saw a single sample of make-up.
The heckling from my brothers around my little crush was as endless as my browsing that Avon catalog in an effort to up my love game.
At the end of third grade, still enflamed and starry-eyed in my now long-term relationship with Donny, I learned a little more about this love thing. I was nine. I remember it like it was yesterday.
We lived in what used to be the country but is now puzzles of paved and treeless streets packed tight with McMansions and SUV’s. When I grew up, the subdivision was just a field with corn. Our houses were about two miles apart by my adult estimate. As a kid, it was no more than a bike ride.
I’d bike through the subdivision on one side of the field, past Kimmie’s house and David’s house and Carrie’s house, through a small forest and along the edge of the long corn field, to cross the country highway to Donny’s house, where everything was as picture perfect as one could imagine.
Two years of peddling this route back and forth left no surprises. I knew every rock, pothole, object and house along the way. I knew when I got to Donny’s house, which was vertical wooden clapboard painted green with a brown front entry door and silk wreath for every season, the Avon lady would be on my left and Donny would be sitting on his front step waiting for my arrival.
In the bliss of this momentum, I saw what I never thought possible. Donny’s house was empty and a “For Sale”sign stabbed the front yard.
The Avon lady, tending to her laundry, yelled out, “They aren’t there, honey. They moved.” They were gone. I stared for a long time, noticing what was missing. There wasn’t a ball in the yard or a flowerpot on the front porch. The wreath on the door was gone. Everything was missing: Donny, his bike, and a note to say good-bye. Right there, on his front lawn with one leg as a kickstand and the other still on the peddle, I felt my little heart shatter in my body, and it came out my eyes as painful little shards of water called tears.
Slowly, I turned myself around, shocked and dismayed, and cried my nine-year old eyes out all the way home.
So began my love life.
The days, weeks, and months after this devastating event did not impress any memories into my squishy little think tank of a brain, but I know my mom well enough to imagine that she probably supplied me with dessert as consolation. It was her way. It was her mother’s way. It was her mother’s mother’s way. Bakery was the generational cure for all of life’s ails; lost dogs, failed tests, upset tummies and broken hearts. I loved deeply, hurt all the way through, and filled my feelings with food.
Though Donny was never seen again, the desserts arrived in abundance and I eventually moved on to have other childhood crushes with Randy, Pete and Dusty. I learned that love is a phoenix and that broken hearts can mend. I also learned that sometimes life’s bitter moments can be made a little sweeter with a bit of cake…cheesecake, especially.