My husband and I used to have an evening ritual. We’d sit on the couch and watch a favorite show. Once upon a time this involved a bottle of wine, but since Roman, the show sufficed. Since Iris this ritual has gradually faded from existence entirely.
Now we spend almost all night every night putting our children to sleep. The putting them to sleep doesn’t even necessarily end at bedtime. Lately I typically put Iris back to sleep at least a half dozen times throughout the night, and its not uncommon for Mike to still have to put Roman back to sleep at some point in the middle of the night as well.
I have not yet left Iris with anyone besides Mike before her bedtime. Her exclusive breastfeeding has led to a dependence, or maybe I should admit to an interdependence, that has made it very difficult for us to get any time away. Also, when you have two kids who are difficult to get to sleep and don’t stay down for the night after bedtime, babysitters can be tricky.
A couple of weeks ago my mother and sister were both visiting so we decided to attempt a night out. I made a late reservation at a new “speakeasy” just a few miles away. I put Iris to sleep in her crib and we left. This “secret” bar just happens to be inside my favorite donut shop! Its called Captain Gregory’s, its dimly lit with green lanterns, seats about 20 people, serves an inspired menu of specialty cocktails along with a list of prohibition era favorites and the promise to “make anything you want.” They have a small food menu with sandwiches that come on donut bread with two sides of house made pickled vegetables and donut-centric deserts. They take reservations via text and advise you to pull the “whiskey flag” on the wall that is actually a door.
I dressed up and put on makeup. (Finally wearing a new dress that is not “breastfeeding friendly”). I drank an “abandoned apartment in Paris” my first egg white cocktail, it had rose liqueur, was soft pink and frothy and florally delicious. He drank something with bourbon. We ate a fig and brie and something else sandwich and snagged some free donuts at the end of the night. We had a quiet conversation. It felt nice to be drunk up by his eyes again. It felt nice to not have our attempt at togetherness interrupted by a waking baby. It sort of felt like playing pretend, sneaking away from our regular lives to spend one night in our secret identities as lovers.
Since then we’ve had some nights when we were able to sit together on the couch and watch a movie. There were several times we had to pause so I could go upstairs and put Iris back to sleep, so not a perfect date night, but something. We watched The Overnight and Digging For Fire and I’d recommend them both. Both quirky independent films about married couples. Perfect for inspiring conversation and laughter and connection.
In Digging For Fire there was this one line I just loved, (partly because of how perfectly Jake Johnson delivered it), he said something like, “we have this rule where we have to keep connecting, but the thing is” and went on to talk about how both of them really are just consumed by their love for their son, how its so amazing and exciting to pour all their love into him, and how thats a different kind of connection and togetherness.
I wish I had the direct quote, but that is what I took away from it. I think that’s true for us too (though we’ve never made a real “rule”). This family is the center of the world for us both. And this time while our children are young is brief. And the shared feeling of awe they inspire and sharing in their joy and even their little struggles, is a different kind of closeness.
When we got home that night we found my mom on the couch holding Iris asleep on her chest. Apparently she’d woken up soon after we left while they were still getting Roman to sleep. She cried and wouldn’t take a bottle. Eventually though my mother was able to rock her back to sleep. She would wake up if any attempt was made to put her in her crib, so there they were on the couch. My mother was kind enough not to bother us with this news. We were able to enjoy our evening unaware. Iris survived without too much hysteria.
Our date night was a really wonderful little luxury. And since we’re moving even closer to Captain Gregory’s a month from now, we’re hopeful we’ll get to steal each other away for some more. Until then, well, I think this beautiful poem says it all much better than I could:
“The Hundred Names of Love” by Annie Lighthart
The children have gone to bed.
We are so tired we could fold ourselves neatly
behind our eyes and sleep mid-word, sleep standing
warm among the creatures in the barn, lean together
and sleep, forgetting each other completely in the velvet,
the forgiveness of that sleep.
Then the one small cry:
one strike of the match-head of sound:
one child’s voice:
and the hundred names of love are lit
as we rise and walk down the hall.
One hundred nights we wake like this,
wake out of our nowhere
to kneel by small beds in darkness.
One hundred flowers open in our hands,
a name for love written in each one.