This weekend—for the second time since our move—the kids went off with their dad and left Otto and me with a vast expanse (okay, a day and a half) of kid-free time. We of course got naked immediately, which was awkward because we were at Monkey’s soccer game when the ex showed up.
(Oh, I joke. We hardly ever get naked at soccer games. Besides, it was COLD here on Saturday! Chickadee and I were shivering and Otto was wearing jeans, and meanwhile the ex was slathering on sunscreen and complaining about how hot it was. That was when I realized that we have acclimated to the weather here. It was FREEZING, man. I mean, I think it was only 76.)
Anyway, the game ended and the kids went off with their dad and Otto had to go to a shoot and I went home and worked, but then LATER we got naked. I mean, later we went on a date.
Otto and I have passed the one-third-of-a-year mark (woo!), which—given that I’m still doing things like measuring our married life in fractions of a year—means that we’re still newlyweds. I have a much less romantic ideal of marriage at 36 than I did at 22 (duh), so it’s not that I expect being newlyweds to mean a constant carnival of x-rated giggling and uncomplicated joy, or anything, but it is rather complicated to start out married life with a couple of mortgages and a couple of kids who need to go to school at dawn every morning and two demanding jobs and several boxes that, let’s face it, we’re probably never going to unpack so maybe we should throw them in the attic already instead of pretending otherwise.
Nevertheless, if I learned anything from my first marriage it’s that romance doesn’t necessarily just happen; it needs to be made. We need to take the time to just be with each other and do things other than talk about bills, homework, deadlines and how we are out of milk AGAIN and I cannot make another trip to Kroger because I was JUST THERE.
So. The kids were gone. The evening was ours. And Otto picked a restaurant for us to try, and we even put on some clothes that did not involve shorts or t-shirts. We headed out in Otto’s car.
“So!” said Otto as we drove along, “how does it feel to be out on a date?”
“It feels…” I paused to fully assess the situation. I was wearing a flouncy skirt and pretty shoes. Otto’s hair was still damp from showering, and he was wearing a nice shirt. He drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other resting on my knee, holding my hand. “It feels good! I like it!”
“Good! Me too.” He squeezed my hand. “So, is it like you remember dating?”
“Hmmm. Yes, I think it sort of is.” He nodded, satisfied with my answer. “In fact,” I went on, “If dinner’s any good? I’ll probably put out tonight.” I tried to keep a straight face, but his reaction made it impossible. I had no choice but to compound his pretended shock. “Yes, this is JUST LIKE I REMEMBER DATING!” We laughed most of the way to the restaurant.
The restaurant we went to bills itself as Mexican-Italian fusion, which I never would’ve selected on my own. I mean, what’s that going to involve? Spaghetti burritos? But Otto had heard good things about it, so we walked into this little hole in the wall to discover a welcoming little space packed with all sorts of very yummy food smells. We sat down and were soon waited upon by (we think) one of the owners, who was a charming woman who sort of flirted with Otto and gave me the sort of “nudge-nudge-wink-wink nice catch there, lady” treatment. We felt very well taken care of and were having a lovely time even before our food came.
And then, our food came.
That seems an inadequate way to express it. I mean, it would’ve been enough to just be out with each other, sitting across a table listening to music and chatting about a whole lot of nothing under dimmed lights, but then these MONSTROUS dishes of food arrived and if that had been my last meal on this planet, I would’ve died completely happy.
Otto had some pasta in a tomato cream sauce that was topped with a thin but gigantic crab cake. He let me have a bite and it’s only because I really really like him that I didn’t knock him over and steal his plate. I had some spinach pasta in a wine sauce with shrimp and artichoke hearts and each bite was better than the last. I was full about halfway through, but it was SO GOOD I just kept eating. I don’t know about fusing Italian and Mexican; I think maybe they just fused butter and cocaine, really.
Our server tried to talk us into dessert, but we declined on account of we’d each just eaten enough food for five people. Then she tried to give us some free coffee, which we also declined, but at that point I had to put her in my pocket and take her home because she was just so cute and sweet.
Using impeccable logic, we reasoned that if we WALKED over to a nearby ice cream place, we’d have room for dessert by the time we got there. So we strolled on over, and the shop was teeming with small children; several families had come together and they kept offering to let us go ahead of them, but we just stood back and waited.
It’s not like we had anywhere to be, or a sitter to race back to. So we watched the tweens debate the relative merits of waffle cones while pacing the cases, and the little ones dribble ice cream down their faces and arms and throw napkins in the air. The parents were clearly unnerved by our patience, and kept apologizing until I mentioned that we were in no rush because OUR kids were otherwise occupied this evening, and thats when all the parents relaxed. Like, Oh PHEW, you are not child-free people who think our children are nuisances!
Eventually we got our ice cream, and sat at an outside table with it while the hoards of kids ran around.
And you know, that sort of thing has never bothered me—provided children aren’t grossly misbehaving, I’m always happy to see some little ones around. But there was a time when Otto would’ve found that level of activity and noise really annoying. Watching him be perfectly content amidst the chaos made me smile to myself, particularly because I’m sure it didn’t even occur to him what a change he’s been through.
Afterwards we strolled back to the car, hand-in-hand, and took the long way home and then came in and listened to music and talked some more. And you know I’m not one to kiss and tell, but as I’ve already mentioned, the pasta was amazing. Ahem.
Yesterday we went to church and had lunch and ran errands and just enjoyed having time to hang out together. I really thought the weekend couldn’t have gotten any better, but then the kids came home and first I found Otto tending to some ugly blisters on Monkey’s feet before I even had a chance to get involved, and Monkey tearfully thanked him for making him feel better; and then later I overheard him telling Chickadee, “Hey Pal? It’s really good to have you home,” and Chickadee ducked her head and smiled and said it was good to be home.
Truly, the pasta pales in comparison.