*Actually, only the icing was chocolate. The cake was yellow.
About 12 or 13 years ago my daughter Theresa used to babysit this sweet, precocious little 10-year-old girl.
Her parents were this young, hip, nice, good-looking professional couple who had a lovely home with an arty interior decor off Venetian Way in Gahanna.
One Friday evening they hired Theresa to babysit for their daughter while they went out for dinner and a movie.
Now, back when my kids used to babysit, before the age of cell phones at birth, I would usually call the house they were babysitting a time or two during the evening just to say hi and check that everything was going okay.
On this particular night when I called the little girl answered. I asked her how everything was going and she replied that the police were there.
She and Theresa had been hearing these strange noises that sounded like they were coming from upstairs. The girl's parents happened to call and Theresa told them about the noises, so just to be sure the parents called the police and asked them to stop by and check, which he police were doing when I called.
I decided to drive over to the house and find out if everything was all right. When I got there the police had finished checking the house and the officer told me that no one was inside the house, but possibly a tree branch was hitting against the roof.
While I was there the girl's mother called again so I talked to her and told her what the police said. The mother seemed concerned, but I told her not to worry, enjoy the evening, I'd stay with the girls until she and her husband got home. The mother then seemed greatly relieved and told me they'd be home after the movie.
So Theresa, the little girl and I played games, watched TV, and generally occupied ourselves for a while.
I don't remember exactly why I meandered out into the kitchen. (I probably just wanted to check it out. They really did have a lovely home. I think I was just sort of making the rounds).
On the kitchen island counter I noticed a bakery box with a cellophane front through which I could see what looked like the remains of a birthday cake.
"Oh, did you just have a birthday?" I called out to the living room to the little girl.
"No," she said, bouncing out into the kitchen. "It's a 'Happy Day Off' cake. We had off from school today so my friends came over this afternoon and my mom bought this cake for my friends and me to celebrate the day off. It's from the Flour Mill Bakery."
What a cool mom, thought I, that she would buy her daughter and friends a 'Happy Day Off' cake from the Flour Mill Bakery!*
*An upscale Gahanna cakery. I don't know if it's still there.
"See?" The litte girl lifted the lid of the box to reveal the remains of a most beautiful dark chocolate-iced yellow cake.
Though the cake was half gone, the area that remained was frosted and decorated with red and chocolate icing roses with green stems with a perfect shelled icing border around the edge.
"Wow, that's a beautiful cake," said I with true admiration for this edible work of art. Upon closer inspection I could see that the icing was thick and substantial.
"You want a piece?" The girl offered.
"Oh, no, no," I said, "I'm just admiring it. Was it yummy?"
"Yeah! You can have a piece."
"Oh, no, thanks. I bet that icing was good."
Now, it's a fact that I'm not a chocoholic. Everyone knows I'm a vanilla girl, right down the line. But that icing....so smooth....so creamy-looking...so...enticing!
The little girl pulled a knife from a drawer and proffered it to me. "Here, have a piece!"
"No, that's okay." But I took the knife. I should have run from that kitchen right then but instead I took the knife!
The little girl skipped back out into the living room. "Aren't you going to have some?" I called to her, "Shall I cut a piece for you?"
"No, thanks," called the little girl. Fortunately my daughter Theresa was in no danger as a potential partner in crime since she was a vegetarian who never ate sweets back then.*
*Does now, didn't then.
So I stood alone in the kitchen of this palacial home which was not mine but which had been entrusted to my care for the evening along with all its contents, including this cake which I was now staring down. Permission to cut into and eat this cake had not been granted me by the owners but by the 10-year-old child in my supervision, who, not having reached her majority, was not technically eligible to grant me, an adult, leave to help my self to anything in her parents' house.
You get what I'm saying?
Oh, but what the heck, it was only a piece of cake! Who'd even notice if I had just one little piece, just to see what it tasted like? Who'd care?
So, following the instructions encoded in my genes and passed down from my great ancestress Eve, who once stood before the apple even as I now stood before this cake, I cut myself a piece. A big piece.
Was it good? Was the yellow cake not of the dry, air-filled, crumby variety, but rather moist, sweet and dense? Oh yeah!
Was the icing a little firm on the surface but pure melt-in-your mouth cream beneath? Ohhhh yeah!
Was I standing over the cake with the knife still sitting on the counter, stuffing my face with the cake, which I held in my hand, when The parents walked into the house? Ohhhh yeah!
I mean, picture it: Here's this lady you hardly know, she offered to watch your kid for you, but your kid's in the living room and this lady is in your kitchen eating your cake. If I caught somebody standing in my kitchen eating my cake, well, quite frankly, I would have thought it was pretty weird.
But how gracious were these people as they stood in the doorway of their kitchen listening to me babble some explanation or other, cake still in hand?
"Wouldn't you like a plate?" asked the father.
"How about a glass of milk?" asked the mother.
"Are you sure?" asked the father, "mi casa tu casa."
To this day whenever I hear the expression "mi casa tu casa" I still experience a faint tingling of embarrassment.
Anyway, it was six months before Theresa heard from the family again. During those six months I figured they'd fired her as babysitter because of her weird, cake-pilfering mother.
But no, they hadn't fired Theresa. Shortly after the cake incident the girl turned eleven and the parents felt she was old enough to start leaving at home on her own. But they did ask Theresa to come over one more time, and at that time they gave her a good-bye gift which the little girl picked out, a mug painted like a black-and-white cow-hide (in honor of Theresa being a non-cow-eater) with a little ceramic cow figure sitting at the bottom of the inside of the cup.
They really were nice people.