Keeping the Flames Alive: The “Day Date”

Yesterday Eli and I had a “day date.”  After taking the kids to school and preschool we had nearly six glorious hours of time together.  As much as we’d like to have a proper date with dinner, drinks, a play, etc., we can’t afford the childcare, the dinner, or the play–so that rarely happens.  It’s become our habit, instead, to spend the day together while all the kids are already taken care of, lunch is much cheaper than dinner, coffee is cheaper than cocktails, and the play is easily replaced with people watching in downtown New Haven (and there’s some characters there!).

These days typically start like this:

Eli: “What do you want to do?”

Me: “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

We’re so dumbstruck at the idea of having even a small amount of time unencumbered by children, work, or school, that we start out the day in a state not unlike someone who has just seen lightning strike a tree she was standing next to.  Once the initial shock wears off we are actually pretty predictable.  We wander around to cafes, bookstores, bike shops, have lunch, and then pick the kids up from school and hurriedly try to return a few emails and attend to the things we’ve been neglecting during our time together before making dinner.  It might sound like a routine that has gotten tired over the years, but it really just gets better and better.

The great thing about being settled, with someone you love, is that there’s no longer a calculus involved in trying to pack the most thrill into the smallest amount of time.  What makes me happy isn’t what I do with Eli, but the fact that I’m with him doing anything.  Five or six years ago this might not have been what I would have said.  I would have wanted a mini-adventure, lots of activity, something unusual to break up my usual routine.  And I still like an adventure from time to time, but what really feeds me is the fact that all the little things–the cups of hot coffee sipped in a newly found cafe across town, the mouthfuls of our favorite pieces of sushi, and the hand in hand walk we take from one shop to the next–add up to a rich kind of joy built out of pretty ordinary pieces.

un chaud lapin

For the morning we drank completely unremarkable coffee at a breakfast joint that we had never been to before, while we talked about bad photography.  For lunch we dined at one of the few decent restaurants in New Haven that caters to vegetarians–a sushi joint called Miya’s, whose 30+ page menu is as much fun to read as it is to order from.   “Nice camera,” said the waiter who had come to take our order.  “Thanks,” I replied, “we like to take pictures of our food.”  He might have thought we were crazy, but he didn’t let on.  We ordered a few of our favorites–the “Tokyo Fro,” a heaping mound of fried shoestring potatoes covered in a curried mayonaise sauce and scallions, un chaud lapin, a roll with asparagus, brie, and cucumber, and the “killer squid” with deep fried udon noodles and black bean sauce wrapped up in rice and seaweed.  We talked about looking for a preschool for Mary Frances to attend next year, and fantasized briefly about taking a vacation this summer, before we came to our senses and realized that probably won’t happen unless the Federal Government wants to forgive my student loan debt and pay for next year’s housing expenses.


We stopped in at the market and the bike shop after lunch, and finally made our way to a coffee shop close to the kids’ school, where we drank more coffee and shared a chocolate chip cookie.  We used to think that a good date was one that ended at 2 o’clock in the morning, not 3 o’clock in the afternoon, but having a few kids and a decade or so of marriage under your belt has a way of re-prioritizing things.  Like just now, when Eli, after washing a whole kitchen full of dishes covered in the sticky remnants of this morning’s batch of caramels, and then laying the baby down for a nap, said to me, “I’m thinking about vacuuming the car out.”  “I love you,” was the most obvious response.  I should probably change out of my pajamas and bathrobe and go help him…it is almost 1 o’clock, after all.  Maybe it’ll be like another date–just the two of us, vacuuming out the car together on a Saturday afternoon.  How romantic.