On Friday nights our family goes out to dinner. Every Friday night, unless we miraculously have other plans, or one of our children is sick - And I mean really sick, not church nursery sick - we wrangle all our kids out the door and head out for Mexican. And it's always Mexican. We used to vary our dinner spots, but as out clan grew to include infants and toddlers we came to value no wait times, cheap food, and immediate chips-n-salsa over quality or variety. We're an inpatient, messy, noisy clan. Mexican suits us.
Occasionally Brandon or Allison will have plans with friends and our party will be down to five. Even less often they will both be gone and it's just The Man and I with Ben & Clara. These occasions almost feel like a dates, because we can actually talk about stuff, albeit in code.
A handful of times a year, I will go out with friends, and The Man, Superdad that he is, will take the herd out on his own. These evenings they go out for Barbecue. I don't like barbecue. They all act like it's a celebration. Barbecue without mom. Woohoo.
And all the while I am thinking: Wine without kids. Woohoo indeed.
The only real constant to Friday night dinners is The Man. Poker nights fall on Saturday, so Fridays he is always home. Always.
This afternoon he and some of his buddies took off for the weekend to go hole up in a cabin, watch football, play cards, and do whatever it is that men do when we are not around. I am perfectly content not to know exactly what that is.
And he dropped Brandon off on the way.
So tonight for Friday night dinner, it was just Allison, the Weekids (Ben & Clara) and me. We were excited about the change. I decided to shake thing up a bit. I let her pick the restaurant.
"Just keep it inexpensive", I said.
She picked Waffle House. Sigh. So we headed out for platefuls of grease and overly sweet waffles served irritably by someone I always feel the need to overtip.
The place was surprisingly busy. Middle aged couples, small families, and several people alone, drinking coffee at the counter. The booth next to ours had seven teenagers crowded into it. They were arguing loudly about jukebox selections and how they could keep their parents from knowing they had ditched the mall to come there. I thought immediately of Brandon. I wanted to call all their mothers myself. Do you know where your kids are?
I suddenly felt old.
And with a pang, I missed my husband. I wanted to laugh with him about how prudish I had become. I wanted to talk about how part of me was still sitting with him in one of those booths at 2:00AM and part of me doesn't even know who that was anymore. I wanted to ask him whether he thought Brandon has ever walked across the busy highway to eat there.
I wanted him to cut Clara's waffle while I ran to the bathroom with Ben.
Instead I made Allie take Ben to the bathroom. And we had a really pleasant meal. She seemed genuinely thrilled with our special outing, and I was proud of her for stepping up to help so much with the little ones. A role Brandon usually fills.
But what I came away with is that my life without Shane, even for one lousy Friday night; it just feels lacking. And that without him to remember the sippy cup and the highchair cover, they don't make it to the restaurant.
I realized that there is a quiet joy in our predictable routines and our glances across the table that don't require words. And a camaraderie in our schlumping down together on the couch on Friday nights after they are all in bed, with an air of "Whew. We did it."
And tonight I am thankful for that. For The Man and our comfortable marriage, that I often take for granted, but that my life would be so much less without.