A romantic dinner for two overlooking the skyline of the Hudson Valley and the twinkling, multicolor lights of the Mid-Hudson Bridge.
Flirty conversation over culinary cuisine and a smoky, sultry red wine.
We hold one another’s gaze intently as we talk about all our heart’s desires. One dessert, two forks. As always, he insists on paying the bill. I show my appreciation with a lingering kiss.
It’s a brisk walk home but we have each other to keep warm as we entwine arms and huddle-walk together.
And if that fails, the bottle (or two) of wine that we drink certainly will act as a buffer against the cold February air.
At home in my charming, one-bedroom apartment, we continue the festivities: more wine—this time a nicely aged port, some romantic music lofting from the stereo, and a snuggle-fest on the futon that he bought me when I first became an apartment dweller. We exchange gifts and spend the rest of the night entangled in one another’s embrace, lulled to sleep by the sound of two hearts beating in unison.
Fast-forward ten years.
Delete romantic dinner for two.
Erase quiet evening alone, listening to our favorite songs.
Eliminate cozy snuggling on the couch.
Insert house, four kids, and Elmo DVD playing loudly from the living room.
Add chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.
Pile on one glass of spilled chocolate milk, a screaming toddler who wants “the other” kind of macaroni and cheese, a tug-of war over the “big” fork, and a bellowing, “Everyone sit down, be quiet, and eat your dinner!”
There is no sophisticated flourless torte with crème fraiche and mint leaf garnish for dessert. Instead, we dine on Betty Crocker cupcakes with sprinkles that have sweat all over the vanilla icing and make the cupcakes to look like they are crying rainbow tears.
We wearily do the dishes and sweep the chocolate crumbs off the floor. We pack school lunches and put cranky children to bed. I pull the sticky Gummy Bear off the bottom of my ragged slipper, throw it in the trash, and absently wonder when the last time was that I actually bought Gummy Bears.
There are no presents, just a card. In my younger years, I never would have settled for such snubbing.
These days, the grey strands that stand out defiantly against my brunette hair are a testament to my older wisdom. Our new, whirlwind life is one that neither of us could have ever imagined and one that is in striking contrast to those carefree evenings overlooking the Mid-Hudson Bridge.
I grab a bottle of half-empty wine from the kitchen counter and two mismatched wineglasses. I tiptoe into the living room where my husband and partner in life is watching sports highlights on TV. I sit down next to him and rest my head on his shoulder.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” I whisper.
He places a gentle kiss on my cheek. I pull the cork from the bottle and pour us each a glass. We hold up our glasses to toast, but rather than the chink of the glasses, we hear the pitter patter of little feet.
Our children, in feety PJs, slink in and nestle between us.
The couch overflows with little arms, legs, feet and hands. I can’t help but remember the early expression of our love in the form of entangled limbs and smile at how this time, now multiplied by four, it’s that much sweeter.