Romance, music, good food... it’s all a couple could want for Valentine’s Day. Back in 2000, I thought, "How hard could it be to handle a romantic dinner made lovingly in my own kitchen?" With two toddlers, we couldn't afford a night out on the town, and my husband had to work late, anyway. I had a plan. I would put the boys to bed early, light candles, play music and our romantic dinner would be wonderful. Well, at least that was my plan.
I don’t remember now what I planned for the main course, but I remember dessert. Considering my limited baking skills, I decided that simple would be better. I proudly made my first real cheesecake! It was beautiful with golden edges, a smooth top. It even came out of the pan! It smelled divine as I carefully placed it in the refrigerator to await the evening.
The day progressed and occasionally I would think about dinner, and the cheesecake, and, of course, my amazing baking skills. Late in the afternoon, I noticed that my 2 year old was very quiet. Oh no. A quiet two year old is usually bad news. I walked into the kitchen to find my dear son sitting on the floor in front of the refrigerator. He looked at me and his face was covered in cheesecake. He waved with his chubby little hand, also covered with cheesecake and said "mmmmmmmm." I cried the whole time I cleaned him up. The cake was ruined. Little finger marks were raked across the top. I felt like the whole evening was destined to be a disaster.
My husband came home and I presented my lovely dinner. Then I pulled the cheesecake out of the refrigerator and showed my husband, with tears in my eyes. "It’s ruined," I lamented, "My special dessert is ruined." He just smiled, and then laughed, as I told the story. He pulled me close into a hug and said, "I think it looks like the best cheesecake ever." And so we ate it. And enjoyed it. And we didn't care that it was mostly crust. Our life wasn't traditional romance, it was toddlers and work, messes and laughter, and lots of love. Since that evening, I haven’t eaten cheesecake without thinking of the best (and last) cheesecake I ever made and the best Valentine’s Days I've ever had.