Your Valentine's Stories: The Trouble With Love
There was no trouble between us then, though we both knew there would be. We were young, or at least I was. I was fifteen and three quarters and, while no stranger to crushes, I was new to the whole falling in love thing. He was too old for me, my mom said, because a couple of years difference at that age is not OK. But he was so nice. And so handsome, and he treated me like I was something valuable, fragile as glass.
It was Valentine’s Day, and I had decided to bake him a giant chocolate chip cookie. I didn’t know how to cook then, and I still don’t, but I was going to give it my best shot. Then, I’d ask my friend to drive me over to his house and leave it at his front door, a burnt offering of best-laid plans.
This was a time before cooking shows, when my only role models were my mom and my grandmothers who were big believers in keeping it simple. If something was made in the home, it was homemade. We shook the coating onto our pork chops, and we sliced and baked our desserts. No one ever complained, and no one ever questioned the love that went into each meal.
But there I was, reading the back of the Nestlé Toll House bag, like Phoebe from Friends would someday do, sorting dry ingredients and mixing in the wet, one by one, until the batter had the perfect combination of sharp, bittersweet morsels and gritty dough. It took me a long time to shape it into an oversized heart, but I formed and reformed, kneaded and pushed to the sides of the jelly roll pan like a sculptor with wet clay.
Somehow I managed to bake it to perfection, not too puffy, not too crispy. I let it cool on the sheet and went to write my love note. That’s when my mom and her then business associate walked into the house. He, too, was a handsome older man – charismatic, with big dreams and a matching personality. He had just bought my mom’s business and they were working on the transition. I didn’t know it at the time, but he and my mom were also falling in love. This was the first time I had met him, this man whom she would go on to marry and who would spend the next thirty years being a good husband, father figure and grandfather to us all. But I didn’t know any of that was coming.
He walked in, saw the cookie cooling on the rack, and thought it was for him. He broke the still-warm heart in half, then half again, popped it in his mouth and introduced himself. I stood there and let him eat it, knowing that the person I was falling for would never know what he was missing.