My daughter’s soccer team was playing in a pre-season tournament in Arlington this weekend. Serendipitously, The Wolves, a Pulitzer-nominated play about a girls’ high school travel soccer team, was having its final run this weekend at the Studio Theatre in DC. My sister got tickets for the three of us and we decided to tell my daughter only that she had a surprise in store.
I picked her up early from school on Friday to make sure we would beat the traffic and make it to DC on time. As we walked to the car, she asked, “So are you going to tell me now what the surprise is, or are you going to make me wait until we get there to find out?”
“You’re just going to have to wait till we get there,” I said, “But remind me…you’ve never had an allergic reaction to any anesthetics, right?”
She merely smirked and rolled her eyes at my clumsy attempt to throw her off the scent.
It took me to Ruckersville to come up with a second gambit: “Hey! You really like organ meat, don’t you?”
“What’s organ meat?” she asked me, not even looking up as she tap tap tapped away on her phone.
“You know…like, intestines, brain, heart, liver, kidney…,” I said, forcing down the wicked laughter that was bubbling up inside me.
“I’d gladly try organ meat,” the little saucepot replied serenely, not even glancing up from her phone, “but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat it.”
“DAMMIT!” I cursed inwardly, frustrated by the girl’s infernal insouciance.
I brooded over the problem all the way up Route 29 until we reached Culpeper, when a devious idea began to form in my brain.
“You did remember to bring a fancy dress and your nice shoes, right?” I casually asked.
My girl whose standard uniform consists of sweatpants and a t-shirt dropped her phone and whipped her head around to look at me with a horrified expression: “Wait, WHAT?!”
Ah, sweet victory!
“OK, you really got me that time,” she said. We collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter, and I could finally relax for the rest of the trip!
Our first stop was the W Hotel and the POV rooftop lounge:
Everything was delicious, but I’m going to dream about the Buñuelo Fritters for the rest of my life. They tasted like impossibly scrumptious, warm air.
The play was amazing!
The tournament didn’t begin until the late afternoon, so we had all morning to relax…
Grandpa & Grandma tested out the new leg massage contraption their favorite son sent them…
Lunch at Rice Paper, Grandma’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Eden Center in Falls Church:
My girl’s own cheering squad, including her grandparents, my sister, and my BFF, turned out in the bitter cold to root for her team…
The girls advanced to the finals with two wins under their belts.
Because of Daylight Savings, we woke up ten minutes before we had to leave for the first game of the day.
We raced out the door with my dad, who decided to play hooky from church to join us on the field. I can’t emphasize enough how exceedingly rare and hardly-to-be-believed-bordering-on-miraculous this was.
Good thing they won!
A repost in honor of Valentine’s Day…
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.
While we were in Arlington, the kids were itching to get outside and play basketball. I drove around looking for a free court and we eventually ended up at my old middle school. Williamsburg Middle School is barely recognizable to me now…
“Did you like going to school here?” my daughter asked as we pulled into the parking lot.
“Well…does anybody really like middle school?” I mused.
I remembered that walking down the hallway was like walking through a minefield. I remember having my bra snapped and my butt pinched, and whipping around to a sea of grinning faces. I remember the nightmare of an overgrown, shaggy boy who would nudge me into the lockers with his giant pot belly to belch in my face.
But as I thought about it some more I remembered that it was at middle school that I met friends with whom I am close even now. It was here that I began to act and sing and discovered that there was something other than studying that I could do…
“I guess it wasn’t so bad…,” I concluded. I made new memories by spending the next hour watching my own middle-schooler and her big brothers shoot some hoops.
My daughter and I spent the second day of the New Year at the NIH.
On the way to the clinic, we were lucky to catch a glimpse of the gingerbread houses, which were still up a day after the display was supposed to have been taken down:
This one was the winner…
But my daughter’s favorite was the Harry Potter castle:
There were two of them!
The Children’s Inn, where we had spent the night before:
By the time my daughter’s appointments were done, the houses had all vanished without a trace.
Meanwhile, back in Charlottesville…Tallis & Chloe were having their own Home Alone adventure…
Do you know what it feels like to drive a brand new car after 15 years of driving in a beloved, but dilapidated jalopy? To drive a car with nary a scratch nor even the smallest hint of a ding to blemish its pearly white exterior? To drive in a car whose interior, still redolent of “new car smell,” is unsullied by a single crumb, wrapper, or clump of mud that’s fallen from cleats? To drive with the unaccustomed luxury of heat and doors that open at will? To drive in a car that’s so smooth and so quiet, that one sometimes questions if the motor is actually running?
It feels like this: