Date night used to exist at our house, and recently it hasn’t, and the topic just isn’t worth the 7 paragraph explanation I wrote and then deleted.  In essence:  we used to need it, then we didn’t.  Now we do again.

It’s been a particularly difficult winter, even by Maine standards. One of those that brings with it too much gray, too much of a feeling of being trapped, too dismal, interminably internal-organ-freezing cold. You can venture out, but you feel you’re fighting, even with your parka to your ankles and your hat down past your earlobes, to breathe.  It began to hold us under.  And I can’t speak for you, but I’m going to go ahead and do so when I say:  that is not good for anyone.  Anyone at all.

In February we took a night for ourselves, as a couple and not as parents, necessarily, to spend some time together actively making sure we still know who the other is, in what might be the worst winter of our marriage.  These years are busy and these days even busier than that, and we felt it might do us some good to sit in the same boat, inciting spring to arrive, and row in the same direction, see how our synchronicity still fares.

It used to be that date night was a hurried affair, with frequent checks that the babysitter hadn’t, in fact, called during the eight seconds it took to gulp down a chicken wing.  It came with a lot of reminders that we had veered off into discussion about our children, when the first rule of date night was: don’t talk about the children.  We were tense, because there were little people at home who were certainly terrified, not knowing where we were or when we might return, who felt abandoned and who had curled up into little tiny balls into corners of the playroom, rocking and swaying to soothe themselves.  This fact, of course, was disproven every single Tuesday upon our return, when one or another of them would yell “why are you HOME?!” as feathers from the pillow fight they’d been having careened around, landing ever-so-softly in my hair.

Our first date night in 7 years brought with it an ice storm significant enough to cancel school.  Determined, and with a reservation, dammit, we went out anyway.  The minivan couldn’t hold itself in the first parking space we tried, too steep of a hill on an eighth inch of ice, so it slid itself into another, where we were grateful no one else had already parked.  It rested peacefully enough for us to shrug and consider it safe.  We had to hold hands and lean on each other as we made our way to the front door of the inn, shuffling like elderly people must, to keep our footing.  “Are you going to take care of me like this when I’m 85?” I asked Guy.  “Nope,” he said with no hesitation.  “Well, why NOT?!” I demanded.  “Because I’ll be 90!” he laughed.

I ordered a martini, something made special for Valentine’s Day.  Something with basil, I think.  Or cucumber.  Something very spring-like and in complete juxtaposition to the falling sleet clinking at the window.  White lights still illuminated the trees outside the inn, from the holidays, and through the watery panes, cast a lovely soft shine on us.  We ate several wonderful nibblets of seven different courses for our meal, including something Asian-inspired, to begin, which got us talking about our year in Korea, a time that in some ways feels lost, like a word you can’t quite bring to your tongue.  Life pulls us forward, incessantly, and there is little time for reflection, even of that incredible experience and of the year that changed us so.

There was a salad, a bisque, a risotto, a cut of filet mignon with accompanying brussels sprouts and also, once in awhile, sorbet.   As morsel upon morsel arrived from the kitchen, our conversation deepened, lengthened – maybe the longest one we’d had since fall (since before coaching basketball had begun), wherein we had nowhere else to be, and no one else needing our attention.  I’ll state the obvious; this is good for a marriage, and I, for one, had forgotten how lovely it feels to have someone not just listening to the way you see things, but who, whether they agree with you or they do not, is on your side.  Rounding out the dinner was a chocolate souffle into which our waitperson poured luscious chocolate fudge sauce, which, if you have to end things, is a good way to do it.

Picture, if you will, a walrus who has gone and gotten himself stuck up to his armpits in, say, snow, since that works here.  See that walrus faloomph itself, somehow, maybe inchworm-style, maybe baby sea turtle-style, out of that snow.  Free at last.   Watch the walrus when it lands on the ice which inevitably surrounds all that snow. Picture how, with it’s gigantic walrus belly leading the way, it gives up the farcical belief in having any control whatsoever over the weather, particularly this ice and this snow we’ve been facing, and just lets go, with a wooohooo!, putting its head back, closing its eyes, and riding the slick carnival slide down the icy hills of life.  It is then that you will have some semblance of an understanding of — not only how full we were upon leaving our dinner, which was uh, to the gills– but of why date night must exist, and will it continue to, for another while.