Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Chaos

             “Don’t take me out on Valentine’s Day.” Michelle sipped her coffee and gestured abruptly with her hand. “That’s the busiest restaurant day of the year.”
            I nodded my head slowly. This was not unexpected. Michelle had told me the same thing the last two years as well. “Okay, I’ll cook you dinner.”
            “What are you going to make?” Michelle seemed interested but hesitant.
            “How about Chicken Cordon Bleu?” I smiled. Always a winning dinner for a date night.
            “Too much time’s required. You’ll have to cook after work. Cook up those elk sirloin steaks in the fridge.”
            I frowned. Chicken cordon bleu sounded more romantic than elk.
            Not that I’m a serious subscriber to Valentine’s Day, but it does seem like an opportunity to be romantic – a much needed interlude amidst baby bowel movements, bawls and broken sleep cycles.
            I took a deep breath and nodded my head. “Sure, honey. I’ll cook whatever you want.”
            The next day I pulled out a special wine I’d been saving for six years – my favorite Italian wine, eleven-years-old and perfectly aged for a romantic night.
            I rolled up my sleeves and mentally went over all the things we needed to do to make the night perfect – clean the kitchen, tidy up the house, feed the kids, put them to bed, put on the romantic music, open the wine, prepare the first course, heat the grill for the steaks…
            “Okay.” I stood with hands on hips, ready for action. “Let’s feed the kids and put them to bed so we can eat.”
            Michelle shook her head at me, “I’m hungry now. Let’s eat now.”
            “What!? With the kids?!” My eyes were wide.
            Michelle looked at me with “those eyes,” the kind that say, “I’ve just had the longest day of my life,” or perhaps, “Do you really want to disagree with me today?”
            I started cooking.
            I uncorked the wine and pulled out the expensive wine glasses.
            I put on some relaxing piano jazz music.
            I quickly scooped up all the toys from the dining room and tossed them into a basket in another room.
            A quick wipe of the table, a flip of the steaks, and two candles.
            We were ready.
            The elk was succulent and eager to be eaten – I was shocked it was actually wild game. The salad was scrumptious, and the potatoes were prepared to perfection. The wine was even better than I remembered it. The candles gave the room a lovely glow.
            Meanwhile, both kids sat at the table flinging food, moaning, crying and making a general all-purpose ruckus. At first, I thought I’d ignore them. I raised my expensive wine glass to Michelle and smiled. She toasted me back. Then Celia lifted her dirty water cup and said, “Cheers!” loudly, trying to clank it with ours.
            “How was your day?” I asked soothingly.
            Before Michelle could answer, Joshua started to cry and Michelle leaned over to pick him up. His hands were covered in the dinner mush he’d been eating, and proceeded to cover Michelle’s shirt.
            Celia said, “Daddy! I want more elk!”
            I sliced her off a bite-sized piece and put it on her plate. She gobbled it down, then spat out a chewy part. “Yuck! I don’t like that part!”
            “Ouch!” Michelle said as Joshua pulled her hair.
            I instantly had one of those “eagle’s eye” moments. I caught a glimpse of what we must look like from afar – a Valentine’s Day Fiasco – and burst out laughing.
            “You know, Michelle,” I smiled at her, “This is utterly ridiculous.”
            Michelle pried Joshua’s clenched hands from her hair and looked at me quizzically.
            “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
            In the end, Michelle and I left half our dinners on the table as we put our kids to bed, and when we returned the ambience suddenly felt appropriate. But for that one moment of chaos, I knew deep down that even though what we’d experienced was far from romantic, it was utterly worth the effort. Maybe not sentimental, but definitely one of the most memorable Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had. Who could ask for more than that?

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