Thanks to our church, which hosted a Parents’ Night Out yesterday, my husband and I were able to go out on an extremely rare date night. Our daughter fit the target age for the participants, and I somewhat eagerly enlisted the boys to be helpers. My husband brought the kids from home and I left work so that we could all meet up at the church at 5.
As we signed the kids in, the kind adults who were supervising the evening asked, “So what are you guys going to do on your date?”
“Uhhh…we’re not really sure yet,” I admitted, “but I guess we’ll go out to dinner.”
“Where do you guys usually like to eat?”
I’m pretty sure they weren’t asking about our dashes into Subway between soccer and piano practices, or to Panera on a Saturday in the middle of a day of running errands with a minivan chock full of kids…It’s the kind of question that would be easier to answer if a date night was something that happened more frequently than say, the appearance of Halley’s Comet in Earth’s atmosphere.
The last time we had a regular date night was fifteen years ago, when we were married with no children. We were both singing in the church choir and practice was on Thursday evenings. I was pregnant with our first child at the time, (the boy who is now 6 feet tall), and I was always ravenously hungry. We would go to Ruby Tuesday, which was both close to our rehearsal, and had a menu that met both of our needs. While my husband demurely nibbled at his salad bar dinner, I would devour every last bite of one of those Pantagruelian platters groaning with three different kinds of meat. You know…the kind that would only be appealing to obese middle-aged men and me in my pregnant, callow youth.
Yesterday, as we got back into the car, we giddily pondered our restaurant options as wondrously as if we were contemplating a rare and precious diamond. We made a spur of the moment decision to go to an Italian restaurant, because we can be crazy like that. We showed up at 5:30 with all the other geriatrics.
As I sat there in the warm and elegant ambiance, I drummed my fingers impatiently, my eyes darting around, wondering if the bread would arrive in my lifetime. After gulping down the bread and an appetizer that we rashly ordered in our expansive mood, we were both full.
“I guess it’s too late to cancel the rest of our dinner, right?” I asked.
We had a couple bites of our main courses, but took most of them home in boxes. This would have never happened in our Ruby Tuesday days! After polishing off my meat slab platter, I’d still be picking croutons off my husband’s salad.
Dinner was done and we still had a couple of hours to go before we had to pick up the kids. The restaurant is right next to Trader Joe’s, so that’s where we headed next. We got into an intense debate about the merits of Trader Joe Honey Nut O’s versus Honey Nut Cheerios.
“Their version tastes much better than Honey Nut Cheerios,” my husband told me, “It’s less sweet.”
“Well, it may taste better, but the misplaced apostrophe is burning my eyes,” I replied.
As we rang up our purchases, we still had an hour and a half before we had to pick up the kids.
“Well…what should we do now?”
“Oh, I know! Let’s go to CVS and pick up my prescriptions and get Epsom salt,” my husband said.
“OK, Gramps! Let’s do it!”
As my husband was paying for our purchases, I remembered I had a $5 coupon attached to a CVS receipt that was floating around in my purse. I pulled it out and tentatively showed it to the cashier. “Would we possibly be able to use this?” I asked doubtfully.
“Sure!” she said as she tore it from my receipt.
As we walked back to the car, we were both jubilant. My husband said, “I can’t wait to try my Epsom salts!” I said, “I think this might just be the best day of my life. I feel like I just won the jackpot! This is the first time in my whole life that I’ve actually been able to use one of those CVS coupons. I’m so inordinately happy, I think I could dance a jig right here on the sidewalk! Could you smell the scent of victory, crackling like ozone in your nostrils when I got to use my coupon? Because I sure did!”
Flush with my unexpected success, I had another idea…
“HEY! Let’s go to the CoinStar at Harris-Teeter!”
We drove over to the grocery store and my husband obligingly lugged in the heavy container full of change that I had stashed in the car.
Have you ever used CoinStar? It’s mesmerizing to watch the sum grow from piles of pennies that have just been lying around the house. We didn’t want the magic to ever end. After emptying our container, we pulled out every last penny from our pockets and wallets until the clinking of the coins finally stopped.
“Wow. This is the best date ever,” I said with a sigh of contentment, “First, the coupon and now this!”
It was now 8 o’clock.
“We still have half an hour. We’re supposed to pick up the kids at 8:30.”
“Yeah, but I’m sure it will be fine to pick them up early. And then we can get home, so I can try my Epsom salts.”
And that’s what we did.
And it was good. Really, really good. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky…
Read the rest of Starfish, by Eleanor Lerman here.