Though it’s entirely contrived, we usually celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I can’t remember the last time we did it on the 14th. Before kids, maybe? The last several years Daniel has been traveling, so it’s usually pre or post, and often at home. Once it was at a Bertucci’s on the Jersey Turnpike. Once it ended in The Great Vaseline Incident of 2011. That was awesome.
So I was pretty surprised when Daniel called from California last week to a) tell me he’d actually be home for Valentine’s Day, and b) ask if I wanted to go on a date, since he had already booked a sitter. The answer to a question like that, of course, is yes.
We decorated mailboxes for each of us, about a week before, and I set up a station for them to make cards at their leisure. As a result, this week I have vacuumed the rugs no fewer than four times to try to combat the unintended confetti that results when 3 and 5-year-olds cut construction paper and doilies to make “Valentimes.” They learned to recognize a raised flag as a sign that they had “mail” and excitedly checked each day.
After school we finished presents for Daniel and made chocolate covered strawberries and talked with neighbors who came by to deliver Valentines. We got ready for the babysitter, with heart plates and napkins and homemade pizza, then I rushed off to get dressed.
When the babysitter arrived, she was not the one the girls and I were expecting, thanks to Daniel’s mix up, so we all called her the wrong name, repeatedly. We gave her flowers and chocolates and a card addressed to our other babysitter.
A bit embarrassed but excited, we headed out for our date. Which could hardly have gone worse, from an external perspective. Though I had done my due diligence, we were surprised by a very limited prix-fixe menu, in which the prix was far too high. Nearly every option featured shellfish, to which Daniel is allergic. We were not noticed for nearly 15 minutes after we sat down. After that, all of the courses we were compelled to order were wrong, late, or cold. I lost track of how many times our waitress apologized. At the tail end of a six-week cycle of sickness that had plagued all of us, I had completely lost my voice. We both leaned as far as we could across the table in an attempt to communicate, and I resorted to charades motions and sign language. We found the humor, but it wasn’t easy given the amount of money we were paying and the treat this was supposed to be.
When we arrived home, toys were still strewn about and the babysitter was nowhere to be found, which could only mean that the children were not asleep. Upstairs I found them both crying, a diaper the dog had eaten torn to shreds on the bathroom floor, and the mortified babysitter standing in the middle of it all. “I am so sorry,” I mouthed.
I calmed the kids down, found the lost teddy bear responsible for inciting the meltdown, whispered them a story, and Daniel saw our poor babysitter out. We cleaned up the mess and sat down briefly before just deciding to call it a night.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and sometimes essential to go out. I’ll never argue otherwise. Sometimes it’s the easiest way to “see” each other again. But in this case, we were reminded of something that, in our excitement, we might have forgotten, if but for a moment. In the wisdom of Dave Matthews, “Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matters.”