In a family of nine, date nights are few and far between. But last night we were fortunate enough to escape the laundry piles, childish mayhem and screaming toddlers. We managed our escape by begging the grandparents to babysit. We emphatically promised perfectly behaved children that they could throw countless pieces of sliced cheese and ice cream bars at- which seems to be what these particular grandparents love to do.
With assurances of drooly kisses from a fat-cheeked baby, we suckered the old folks into an eight hour babysitting stint. Poor grey haired saps.
Offering waves, well wishes and silent prayers that they wouldn’t change their minds, my husband and I strolled confidently to the small car and headed downtown. It’s a rare thing to drive in a car like normal people do, instead of our oversized fifteen passenger van.
Our first stop was a ghetto my city likes to refer to as China Town.
“Can you see it from the window?” My husband asked.
Even looking down through the dirty window of a moving car, China Town was unmistakably recognizable. The buildings were covered in yellow Chinese graffiti, it smelled of noodles and Jackie Chan was in the alley whipping an entire masked gang with a trash can lid and a pair of chopsticks.
“Yeah,” I said. “I can see it.”
We met up with good friends and after rock-paper-scissors, entered into the most sweltering hot Chinese restaurant on the face of God’s green earth.
“Ohhhhh, uggh,” Our friend declared upon seeing the interior, “Well, the thing is, I hear the dirtier the restaurant, the better the food is.”
We took her word for it, which in hindsight may have been a mistake. Although Dim Sum is currently one of our favorite styles of eating asian cuisine, I can now assure you, dear reader, that if the lighting is Dim, then there’s likely Sum-thing they are trying to hide.
The frantic waitress seated us at a clean table accompanied by metal chairs with ripped vinyl seats. She ran up and down the aisles, handing out laminated menus, then snatching them back to hand to new patrons. The Dim Sum was ordered from poorly shot photos and we took turns guessing which item had once been a jellyfish and which one just smelled like it.
Here is where I will say that we are no stranger to Dim Sum. The trick is to find a goodDim Sum restaurant. If you don’t, you might end up wondering if it was actually legal to serve what you just ate- which is what I wondered after I opened my semi-cracked fortune cookie and the message said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Date night had just begun.
After dinner we walked to the local ball park to take in a game. I haven’t been to a baseball game in close to ten years and since our city has one of the nicest stadiums in the country, I hit a game on occasion just to see what my tax dollars have paid for against my will.
My husband and I have entirely different motives. He goes to baseball games to watch a sporting event. I go to baseball games to watch people and to garnish fantastic writing material.
Our tickets were scanned, our bags searched, we were wand-ed at the metal detectors by glowing mini-light sabers and overzealous stadium guards. Finally, we were ushered to our seats.
The anthem played, the bats cracked.
A gal with fluorescent green hair, fishnet stockings and several facial piercings stood hugging a rail-thin guy decked out in black and white plaid. An adult sibling group sat directly in front of us and tried to feign interest in being there. A creepy old man sat behind us with two (very young) blonde beauties and tried desperately to schmooze them with his money and flowery words. As luck would have it, a screaming toddler sat directly to my left and gave her parents a run for their money while they tried to chomp on cheeseburgers the size (and cost) of Rhode Island. Loud, boisterous drunks sat several rows back and blessed us with their eternal opinions on how much the umpire stunk.
My husband looked at me and grinned and who could blame him? This was our section; our little “family” of fellow comrades who would ride out with us the next three hours of emotional turmoil. They would be with us through the highs and lows; through the good calls and the bad plays; through the overpriced beer vendors and the seventh inning stretch.
Pitchers pitched, bats swung, runners ran. The home-town heroes hit home-runs far up into the grandstands. Money rained down from the sky as intoxicated fans on the level above us celebrated by gleefully tossing paper money out of their wallets onto the crowds below.
We ordered nachos with dripping-white cheese from a vendor in a yellow shirt; which took so long to arrive that they likely came straight from Mexico. We ate deep fried Churros that came with so much sugar they were served with a shot of insulin.
We sat chewing on red licorice and “boo-ed” as an embarrassed fan was forcibly removed from the stadium for interfering with a ball in play. This would have been the perfect time to place a SOUTHWEST AIRLINES commercial with the tagline “Wanna Get Away?” on the big screen and how they missed that golden comedic opportunity, I will never know.
We sang “Take me out to the ball game.” We did the wave. We danced and we cheered. The guy in front of us received angry text messages from a girlfriend he’d abandoned to attend the game. My husband, who insisted he wasn’t cold (and refused to bring a jacket), finally caved and draped a fuzzy blue blanket around his arms and tried not to give me the satisfaction.
To our shock and amazement, our team eeked out a victory and the crowds dispersed into the darkness. A Hippie bongo player sat on the sidewalk straddling his drum and beat out melodic rhythms while people maneuvered out of the stadium.
Like cattle, the crowd walked along as venders hocked leftover licorice ropes, bottles of overpriced hose water and JUMBO HOT DOGS which, after a long day in a germ infested water bath, had shriveled down to the size of cocktail weenies.
We marched to the car in the crisp night air, holding hands and moving swiftly along crowded roads. I had silly romantic visions of being swept away by my handsome man to a quiet street and having his love passionately declared under the starlight. Instead, he and I followed a crowd of inebriated college students and watched as an enraged man repeatedly beat a metal sign post with his fists.
The 4-passenger car carried us safely home.
The house was dark. The house was quiet. We dismissed the overwrought (and brave!) battle-worn grandparents. God bless them. We watched gratefully as they staggered toward the door. With torn clothing and hair askew, they left quickly without looking back.
I poured a glass of wine and prepared to sit in silence, which was the perfect time for the baby to offer a blood-curdling scream that curled our toenails and pierced deep into the dead of night. Lights clicked on and curious, once-sleeping children began making their way to the hallway to see what the fuss was about. The baby responded to her impromptu party by throwing up 3 blocks of cheese, a blue duplo, 12 ice-cream bars and a rubber duck.
And those, my friends, are all the moments that make date night…truly magical.