I don’t know if you guys ever leave the kids and go on dates, just the two of you? And has it ever turned into something sort of disastrous?
Hj says our dates are always tinged with disaster, but then in the end everything works out great. In my mind, there were some real disasters, tinged, if you will, with meltdowns and what not. When this happens, we do three things, or one of three things— depends if we had our quiet time that morning. 1. Rebuke the devil. 2. Get super grouchy. 3. Laugh like crazy.
The day Hj and I got engaged over in the wild woodlands of Holland, we got terribly lost. For awhile, I thought we were just on a very long walk. Then dusk settled in and we met cows on their way to bed, and I was very, very cold. Hj kept tromping cheerily in a forward direction, looking for a certain beautiful spot in the woods (unknown to me). I think it was just when I was starting to get that little tinge of grouchy around the edges that Hj threw up his hands in despair, and proposed. A really perfect way to redeem the moment, even if it was between a cow pie and a mud puddle. I said, “yes of course!” to a million more adventures just like this.
Afterwards we drove around for hours looking for a place to eat. Holland is nothing like America when it comes to eating out: looking for a place to have a romantic dinner out is not just a matter of typing your favorite chain into the GPS. That night we walked into a basement nightclub, a truck stop, numerous restaurants that had closed, and finally ended up back in Hj’s hometown at a nice little restaurant: right next to a big table of raucous drunk men, out for a party. We couldn’t talk much because of the noise, but you know how it is in those days…. as long as you can gaze at each other, what is the point of talking? I did embarrass Hj because I asked the waitress for ketchup. “It means you are not satisfied with their dish!” What if, perish the thought, I told her how completely unimpressed I was with the bowl of tomato paste she brought out!?
The first time Hj came to visit me in Honduras, back when butterflies were out of control and my family was still a little wary, we got to go on our first official date. We sat by the lake until some little boys came to skinny dip. We slowly meandered to a restaurant and wanted to sit on the deck overlooking the water, but the mosquitoes were too hungry for us, and Hj has no time for hungry mosquitoes. So we got tucked into a little corner of the kitchen, next to the fridge. Then a large mission team came in and completely took over the room. You know how awfully jarring Americans can be, when abroad? There come the white sneakers, khaki shorts, fanny packs and oh, don’t forget the decibels. When they start loudly complaining about the food or service, I just want to stick my head into a coconut.
Above the American din, I vaguely heard a phone ring, thought the ringtone is just like mine, and wondered why someone isn’t answering it. The three thoughts didn’t link up in my brain because, well, I had better things on my mind. Those all came quickly to a halt when I casually checked my phone as we were driving home. Way, way too many missed calls. Alarmed that a tragedy must have happened, I quickly called my sister. Basically, the prayer chains had already started and there was a search team out in the rain, looking for the missing couple (us). What does “Don’t stay out too late” mean to you? I guess it depends which side of the ocean you grew up on.
Another time we went out on a romantic picnic on top of the mountains, and it snowed like crazy. Another time we went out to our local greasy restaurant and Hj ordered frog legs, for fun. Around the dessert course, he got sick and puked them legs right out. What about the time Hj wanted to take our friends out for a birthday, and forgot about that American tradition of making reservations on a Friday night. After knocking on many restaurant doors we finally ended up in a loud brewery/pizza place, in downtown. I spent most of the evening in the bathroom trying to rock Ellie to sleep. Just when she finally closed her eyes, a group of drunk Santas came storming in. The rest of the evening we shared the restaurant with 50+ drunk, bar-hopping Santas. Can’t remember what we talked about that night, because we had to lip read above the riot.
We did grow in the dating aspect of our lives. Our latest date on Valentine’s Day was heading toward disaster when we drove an hour, only to discover the movie we wanted to see wasn’t playing after all. After some quick googling, we found a different theatre 30 minutes away and we went there instead. It was worth the drive and we congratulated ourselves for not settling for any old film. The restaurant where we had reservations stank an hour in the wind. It was in the open foyer of a mall, and freezing cold. Hj recognized my frantic looking face and we were out of there before anyone could know. We found a lovely Greek restaurant and patted ourselves on the back again: we are learning how to dodge the curve balls.
But don’t worry, we look back and laugh a lot about all those little disasters. In fact, we wouldn’t trade them for anything, even the ones where we rebuked the devil up and down. Those memories are worth more than two dozen red roses and a little pink teddy bear (sprayed with cologne).