The One Where Nothing Happened… But It COULD Have!

Yesterday, the most terrifying* thing happened: my girls were unexpectedly home alone** for over 90 minutes! Their babysitter never showed!! I wasn’t home!!! Nick wasn’t home!!!! THERE WAS NOBODY HERE OMG OMG OMG.

* Except… It wasn’t actually terrifying at all.
Isn’t that the weirdest thing?

(** Also, they weren’t alone. But they could have been! More on that in a moment.)

Lemme ‘splain.

On Thursdays, I teach piano lessons, so our babysitter, S, gets the girls from school, supervises their homework-doing and snack-eating and backpack-emptying and sometimes-playing, generally makes sure they don’t maim one another, and does awesome babysitter-y things with them. We adore her.

The girls walk home from school, but Ella likes to go independently, so S and Annie walk together, while Ella comes at her own pace. Yesterday, when Ella arrived home shortly after 3:00, as usual, she noticed that S and Annie weren’t here yet. After a few minutes, she began to consider that Annie was just sitting at school alone, so she hightailed it back, found Annie, and the two of them walked home together. They then said “hello” to the new lady who has been cleaning our house (I’d avoided the mere thought of a cleaning woman for years, but my recent sleepless balancing act caused me to count my blessings and reexamine my priorities; she comes once every two weeks, this was her fourth visit, and she’s been superb), and then pondered that they were, for all intents and purposes, home alone.

They tried calling my cell phone – three times, Mommy! – but the call wouldn’t go through, because they’d forgotten to dial 1 for an out-of-area number (yes, I still have my phone number from before our move seven years ago. I KNOW, I know). They also tried to text me from their iPads, but again, nothing went through because they “needed a password, but you won’t tell us the password, Mommy, because you don’t want us buying stuff whenever we want to.”

At least I know my meager parental controls are effective. Those in-app purchases can really be a bitch.

Because they weren’t technically alone – our housecleaner was working upstairs – they decided all was well, so they did what they always do: followed their checklist. Within an hour, they’d emptied their backpacks, brought their papers into the kitchen, helped themselves to a snack, and completed their homework. (Ella did technically bend the rules by reading aloud to Annie instead of a responsible adult, but hey, the cleaning lady was still working, so I can’t really fault her.)

kickass checklist
Man, it was nice out yesterday!

When everything was checked off of their list, they headed out to play in the backyard around 4:20 – just as our housecleaner was finishing up. She, too, noticed that S was nowhere to be seen and contacted me, catching me mid-teaching. Given that this is a rare occurrence, I thought maybe something was up, so I asked my student to go ahead with her piece while I took a moment to check my phone (something I never normally do during lessons)… and had the following exchange with our cleaner:

kickass text1

I knew that something was seriously awry; S has never just not showed up, not once in several hundred afternoons and evenings spent babysitting our girls. So I apologized profusely to my student, explaining that now I needed to make a phone call, and dialed S, hoping that she’d answer, hoping that she was okay. The moment she picked up (people don’t really “pick up” anymore, do they? You know what I mean) and heard that it was me, she gasped with recognition. “Oh my God. I am SO sorry, Emily – my grandmother is in the hospital, and I’ve been with her all day, and I just completely forgot about babysitting.”

She then explained that she would leave the hospital immediately and get home to the girls. I tried to protest – Was she sure? Was it an emergency with her grandma? I could cancel lessons; I could call Nick? – but she was practically already out the door. So, after a failed attempt at contacting a neighbor, some more distracted instructions and critiques to my very patient piano student, and a few more communications with our cleaning lady, it was determined that she – the housecleaner – would remain at home with the girls until S could arrive.

kickass text2

When S got here, fifteen minutes later, I’m told that Annie and Ella essentially looked up from playing and said, “Oh, you’re here!” and then went right back to what they were doing. The cleaning lady went home. S played with the girls, fed the dogs, threw the ball for Langston, and then apologized even more when I returned home, promising this would never happen again and refusing payment of any kind for the time she was with our girls.

And… that was that. They played outside until just before dinner and got absolutely, deliciously filthy. They cleaned up, ate dinner, made their lunches for tomorrow, had dessert, read books, went to bed. The end!

Sounds terrifying, right?!

For so many families these days, though, this would have been terrifying. The What If game would have begun: What if they’d gotten abducted on their way home? What if they’d choked on their snack? What if they’d gotten hurt? What if there was a fire? What if the cleaning lady wasn’t actually a nice lady after all? What if she’d molested them? What if she offered them poisoned apples? What if they’d gotten scared? What if they’d gotten into an argument and knocked one another to the ground? What if they’d gorged on candy? What if a Jehovah’s Witness came to the door? What if aliens landed and tried to beam them up into their mothership?

Never mind that none of these actually happened, and that the girls were calm and happy and safe. Something could have happened. And those Could Haves and What Ifs are often so omnipresent – no matter how unlikely they might be – that panic and hysteria and anger frequently take over. Children – fending for themselves, not relying on an adult or being under constant supervision?? Unthinkable! Something awful could have happened! Fire the babysitter! Quit teaching piano! NEVER LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT AGAIN!!

At least, that’s how it so often seems these days.

But – and maybe we’re strange (okay, we’re definitely strange) – neither Nick nor I felt that way, not even a little. Yes, I was upset… but not that the kids had been on their own, nor that they spent time “alone” with someone we don’t know very well, nor that S hadn’t remembered to get them. (On the contrary – at first, I was worried that something had happened to her, and once I learned about her grandmother, I was heartbroken for their family. It never dawned on me to be upset with S.) No, I was upset that our lovely new housecleaner rearranged her afternoon in order to make sure my girls weren’t alone – upset for her, because I’m sure she had somewhere else she needed to be, and watching my children certainly wasn’t part of our original hiring agreement.

You can read stories left and right about how children are becoming less and less independent; how often they’re supervised; how little they play outside; how playgrounds are being closed because they’re “dangerous;” how college students are completely flummoxed when faced with doing laundry because they’ve never had to do it before; how recent college graduates bring their parents with them to job interviews (omg!); how every person who ever comes into contact with any child for any reason needs a CIA-grade background check.

It’s just… Nick and I haven’t bought into it. And, for the most part, our neighborhood hasn’t, either. Step into our yard and you’ll see loads of kids of all ages outside – with no adults in sight – riding bikes, running from yard to yard, roller blading, playing baseball in the cul-de-sac. Our girls are growing up where walking to school is encouraged, ironing isn’t just for grown-ups, and playing with hammers is par for the course. They earn and spend their own money, bake their own cakes, order for themselves at restaurants and stores, and sometimes even cook meals. Maybe it’s some kind of retro Pleasantville… but I’m so freakin’ glad that we’re a part of it.

photo-72
Seen at school today. Helmets? Check. Crossing guard? Check. Walking bikes safely across the street? Check.
Parents? Nope.
(Yes, I recognize the irony that I, a parent, took this photo… Carry on…)

About five years ago, I came across a book and website by Lenore Skenazy titled Free-Range Kids. Although I hadn’t realized it, Nick and I have been “free range” parents all along: we believe that Ella and Annie are smart and capable – not, to quote Ms. Skenazy, “invalids who needs constant attention and help” – and we treat them as such. We think that the world has way more good people than bad, and that the best way to allow our kiddos to grow into successful, happy, healthy adults is to give them the tools they need to do so… which does not include our hovering over their every move.

After attending a (funny, well-spoken, generally fabulous) talk given by Ms. Skenazy (one of my fellow mom friends was so taken in, she called out and asked if Lenore would marry her…), I was even inadvertently featured in one of her ParentDish articles, which resulted in commenters calling me a ridiculously irresponsible parent who did not deserve to have my children; some even called for my death (!). A year later, I wrote to Lenore to let her know how my parenting had changed – or not – since that incident. She posted my letter on her website, part of which read:

But also?  It made me think.  It made me re-assess how I DO parent, and made me look more carefully at WHY I parent as I do.  And the outcome?  I’ve become even more Free-Range!  If  THAT’S the mentality of others out there – paranoid, terrified, helicopter-ish to the max – then I know I *HAVE* to continue with Free-Range thinking and parenting more than ever, to ensure that my daughters grow up to be confident, strong, and capable, and to look at the world knowing that dangers do NOT lurk around every corner, that most people ARE good, and that they, themselves, are competent.

Confident, strong, capable, and competent.

I may have written those words over three years ago, but they are just as true now as they were then.

Did Nick and I want our girls to fend for themselves for nearly 90 minutes? Nope. Did we want them to be stranded by the babysitter? Of course not. But life is not perfectly in our control (if it were, there would be a Starbucks on my corner, believe me), and sometimes these things happen – and when they do, we’re doing our best to ensure that our kids posses the skills and the confidence to navigate the changes.

Ella and Annie could have freaked out. They could have completely panicked, worried themselves sick, and been utterly unable to determine what to do next. They could have been taught that predators and molesters lurk around every corner, and might have been terrified for our housecleaner to be with them. It could have been one of the worst afternoons of their lives.

Instead, when I got home and found them playing in a pile of dirt out back, reveling in one of the first warm days of the year – covered head to toe with filth – and said to them, “So, I hear you had quite the afternoon!”, they looked up with delighted eyes and said, “Yes, we did! We found dinosaur bones!” And then proceeded to hold up some kind of… bone… that is certainly not from a dinosaur and so I don’t even want to think about what it really is and why it’s lurking in our backyard.

kickass digging
God only knows what they’re digging up…

When prompted, they admitted that they were worried… But not about themselves. They were worried that something might have happened to S. The rest? S being missing, walking home alone, taking care of their snack and homework and unpacking, chatting with the cleaning lady, and ultimately waiting for S to arrive and play with them? So unworrisome, they hardly even acknowledged that it was unusual.

But it was unusual – because it’s never happened before, because of how they handled it, and because of how so many other kids and parents would have handled it.

For a moment, when I first received the call from our housecleaner saying that S wasn’t home, I nearly did go down my own list of What Ifs… But then a strange feeling came over me, and it became so powerful, it drowned out everything else: gratitude. I was so grateful that our cleaning woman cared enough about our girls to contact me. I was so grateful that she was able to stay with them a little while longer. I was so grateful that S cared enough about our daughters to leave her grandmother and race to the house to babysit. I was grateful that she fed the dogs; that she played with the girls; that she took such ownership for her mistake. I was humbled that she refused any payment.

Sometimes, it really does take a village. Our village is tremendous.

When I took another step back, though, what I was most grateful for and astounded by was my children. Yes, Nick and I hope that we’re teaching them to be confident, strong, capable, and competent… but it’s rare that we have an opportunity to see whether or not our efforts are effective. But, you guys! HOLY CRAP. They walked themselves home. They fed themselves (a healthy snack! Not just junk! [Well, they did ‘fess up to eating some chocolate, and Ella squirted whipped cream straight from the can into her mouth… but it would have been disappointing if they hadn’t bent the rules a little, right?] They even put their dishes in the sink!!). They did their homework. They played nicely together and did everything that they normally do after school, flawlessly – so much so, our housecleaner didn’t even realize that S wasn’t here until it was time to leave. And throughout it all, they remained calm and happy, because they were confident in their own abilities and knew they were badass enough to smack this unexpected curveball out of the park.

They’re hardly perfect, and we’ve still got a helluva lot of parenting to do… But, yesterday, Annie and Ella were pretty much the biggest seven and nine year-old rockstars in existence. Hell, maybe we don’t even need a sitter anymore! Holla!

(Don’t worry. We’re not letting S go anytime soon.
But it’s nice to know that, in an emergency, Ella and Annie are the ones you’d want on your team. Take that, Jack Bauer!)

We learned something else, too: that we need to have our phone numbers written somewhere that’s easily accessible. S could have been contacted much more quickly had the girls been able to reach Nick or me immediately. Or maybe I should just change to a local cell number… Nah.

So, there you have it. The terrifying afternoon that was anything but. Nevertheless, we thought that ice cream was in order – not to comfort our “traumatized” daughters, but to let them know how proud of them we were, and to celebrate their levelheaded stupendousness. I can’t think of a better way to start Mother’s Day weekend.

Except maybe with the wine I had last night after I finally got home. Nothing may have happened, but wine is usually a good idea.

kickass icecream
Yes, they wore their pjs to get ice cream. All the rockstars are doing it.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: The Gift

Photos have always been really important to me. It didn’t matter if I took them or someone else did, if they were technically “good” or quick, blurry snapshots – I’ve loved them. While I’m not terribly hoard-ish (yes, that’s a word; because I said so) in most areas of my life, I do hoard photos. I’ve got boxes of old pictures, some containing frame-worthy gems, others with envelope after envelope (from the stores that used to offer 1-Hr Photo Development! – remember those?!) of out-of-focus images, often in duplicate or even triplicate, of people and places whose names I can no longer recall.

Doesn’t matter. They’re photos and, like books or chocolate or Sauvignon Blanc, I simply cannot bear to part with them. This may seem odd or at least not terribly practical, given the amount of space that the physical photos take up in my basement and the digital photos take up on my hard drive(s)… but the pictures make me happy. All it takes is a few moments sifting through image after image to completely lift my spirits, make me gasp (in both good and bad ways), and make me smile. Which is also like books or chocolate or Sauvignon Blanc. I may be onto something.

GranMary came to visit a couple of weekends ago, and we had a really delightful time with her. As I’ve mentioned, little gives me more joy than seeing our family and friends just soak up my children, and GranMary’s visit provided plenty of opportunities for that. I loved the way that Annie and she giggled together on Friday night before Ella got home from swimming – a little time, just the two of them. I loved how I was awakened on Saturday morning by the girls’ raucous laughter from GranMary’s bed, after the girls had crawled in with glee. I loved how she and Ella cuddled in to watch one of the Harry Potter movies while Annie was at a Girl Scouts outing – a little time, just the two of them.

I loved watching Mary and my grandmother chatting away over lunch. I loved a chilly Saturday afternoon spent inside, with the girls scarcely leaving GranMary’s side as they did projects (she always brings some; it’s a highlight of her visits) and watched more Harry. I loved the opportunity to sit and talk with her after the girls had gone to bed, while Nick was at a party for his hockey team – a little time, just the two of us. I loved how GranMary gamely participated in our scavenger/egg hunt, seemingly unfazed by the dozens of children shrieking about our backyard in search of chocolate and money. (Then again, who could blame them?) I hated it when we said goodbye for another few months and Nick drove her back to the airport – a little time, just the two of them.

I hate that Bill is no longer here to come out and see us, but I love that Mary still does. I love that we’ve made our own relationship with her, in part because she is GranMary, but in part simply because she is herself, and we want her in our lives.

And Bill is not entirely absent from her visits; we talk about him all the time, wistfully, longingly, but almost always with laughter. This visit, GranMary surprised Ella and Annie with little photo books for each of them – pictures of them with Grandpa Bill. Many of the photos, I’d already seen, but some were new to me and they took my breath away. See, I thought I’d already sifted through my Memories Of Bill, had pored over everything I could recall, turning them over in my mind and reveling in their comfort… but here were moments that I’d never seen before. Memories that I never even knew existed.

It was amazing.

The girls loved their books, too. After going through each page, asking about every picture, smiling and laughing, I wasn’t sure what they’d do with them… But then I discovered that Annie had taken her book to school to share it with her friends, and that Ella keeps hers beside her bed. It seems that they’ve inherited my photo-loving gene (and the book-loving gene and most definitely the chocolate-loving gene; it remains to be seen what they think of Sauvignon Blanc).

Mary also brought a small collection of individual prints with her, which she gave to Nick and me – all pictures of Bill, most of them with us in one way or another. I’d seen nearly all of them, and cheerfully thumbed through the pile without really paying them too much mind… until I found this one and was stopped cold.

bill and me
Bill and me, May 2013, laughing like nobody’s business

Looking at it, you might be thinking: that’s cute enough. You’re both laughing, ice cream seems to have been involved, and you look like you’re having fun. A nice picture… if you don’t count the faded smudge at the top of the photo (an errant finger? late afternoon sun?) or Bill’s compression socks or the way the cuff of my capris is practically cutting off the circulation in my calves.

I see those things, too, but I don’t care even one bit… because this is the only photo I have ever seen that contains just Bill and me. We have photos from our wedding (Nick’s and my wedding, not Bill’s and my wedding… Although I do have photos from Bill and Mary’s wedding…), from before our wedding, up North, downstate, with Ella and Annie, with Nick, with Mary – and many of them are delightful photos – yet none of them contains just Bill and me.

Believe me, I know. I looked. Hard.

Why this matters, I’m not sure. It’s not like there’s anything unspecial about photos containing other people, too. But somehow, it gives me incredible joy to have this photo of the two of us, obviously enjoying one another’s company, laughing and generally getting a kick out of life.

I hadn’t even known this photo existed, hadn’t known that Mary had surreptitiously snapped it a year ago during Bill’s last-ever visit. I’m so very glad that she did, though, and that she printed it out and gave it to us. It is, without question, one of the most wonderful – and unexpected – gifts I’ve ever received.

I can’t wait to stumble upon it again when I go through our photos (and eat chocolate and drink wine) and relive the memories of that day.

Nah, scratch that. This one’s going on the wall.
Joy that big should be shared, don’t you think?

They’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do here

On Thursday, Nick and I went out to dinner to celebrate twenty years of being together. We found a new (to us) gem, a little Cuban spot with scrumptious food and festive decor, leaving the girls with a sitter, B, who is also (relatively) new.

Upon arriving home – stomachs uncomfortably full, but feeling quite content – we relieved B of her responsibilities and got to the rest of our romantic evening. Meaning that Nick went upstairs to use his iPad while I tidied up downstairs and edited some photos.

See? After twenty years, that spark is still fresh.

Nick hadn’t been gone more than a few minutes when he called me up, saying I needed to see something. I obliged, assuming that perhaps the girls had fallen asleep in some strange or adorable way, and was surprised when he led me to the master bathroom.

“Look!”

Um… What am I looking at?

“All of this stuff is out!”

Uh, okay… 

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Judging by the brightness outside of the window, you can probably tell that this is a dramatic reenactment. I do strive for authenticity.

“I think that B was going through your jewelry.”

What? 

“Your jewelry is all over the counter!”

I can see that, but I really don’t think…

“She must have heard the car and run downstairs in a hurry.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not what actually happened.

“She’s a lousy thief if she thought we wouldn’t notice.”

That’s because she’s not a thief at all.

“Then how…”

I think that the girls must have been in here, playing around with my earrings.

“Why would they do that??”

Because they’re girls? 

“?”

Ella, especially, really likes to try on my earrings.

“But why would she have come in here instead of using the other…”

I don’t know, but… Yes, look! That’s it!

“What’s it?”

Those earrings, the big hoops. They were in the girls’ bathroom and now they’re in here.

earrings
Exhibit A: Dun dun DUNNNNN.

“And that means…?”

It means that Ella brought them in here and was trying them on. B wouldn’t take the time to rummage through the earrings in another bathroom and then bring them in here if she was just going to steal them.

“Okay, fine. But why are the cabinets open?”

Uhhhhh… Maybe I left them open after I got ready? I sometimes leave things open and don’t remember…

“Yeah, but I was in here after you. They weren’t open.”

Well, I’m not sure why they’re open, but…

“Do you think B was going through our prescriptions??”

Yes. She was probably trying to steal my Xanax…

“Do you think we should…”

… which is a bummer for her because I don’t keep my Xanax in here.

“… check to make sure everything’s okay?”

No! I’m telling you, B had nothing to do with this. The girls were here. I don’t know how the cabinets got open, but I’m sure that it wasn’t B. 

—————–

Later that night, my assumptions were confirmed when I discovered that my makeup – which is kept in the girls’ bathroom (it’s confusing, I know) – was scattered all over the place and nearly every one of my hair products had been moved. At first, I thought that perhaps everything was missing (and, I’ll sheepishly admit, I had fleeting thoughts that perhaps our sitter was, in fact, a cosmetics thief), but a closer inspection found everything still in the cupboard – just in a completely random spot from where I’d left it.

Ella and Annie were all over this. I knew it, but I needed to hear it from them, and I was concerned that if I accused them of being messy boors, they might not ‘fess up after all. (I’d love to say that they’re honest and forthcoming all of the time, but… well… I’m trying to model such behavior by not lying, myself.) So I decided to try a different approach.

Hey – how was it last night with B? Did you all have fun?

“Yes, it was great!”

Awesome! What did you do?

“Oh, you know. The usual. Ate dinner, watched a show, played a couple of games.”

“We also tried on some nail polish, but we used the wrong kind – you know, the kind that peels off instead of regular? – and so now both of us lost all of our polish while we were sleeping, so that’s kind of a bummer.”

That is a bummer. You know what else is a bummer?

“No, what?”

We don’t think we’re going to be able to ask B back to babysit anymore.

“Why not??”

Because we think she was stealing things from us.

(In case you’ve ever wondered – yes, people’s mouths do actually drop open in surprise. I saw it with my own two eyes. Twice.)

When we got home last night, all of my make-up and hair stuff was in new places. B must have gone through the cupboard looking for things.

“Um, mom…?” (eyes down, voice quiet)

Yes?

“B didn’t go through the cupboard.”

How do you know?

“We… might have… been looking for more nail polish remover. So we might have moved your stuff.”

“By accident.”

And you didn’t think to put any of it back?

“I guess we just forgot. But B didn’t do it.”

Okay, well that’s good. But I’m still concerned about the stuff in my bathroom.

“Your bathroom?”

Yes. My earrings were all over the place. I think that B was rooting through them.

“Actually… (even quieter than before) That wasn’t B, either.”

Why not?

“Because it was… me. I was in your bathroom. With the earrings.”

You were? What were you doing?

(* crickets *)

Were you trying them on?

(still crickets from Ella)
(rapid, vigorous head-nodding from Annie)
(*side note: only Ella has pierced ears)

Is that why you were in my bathroom?

“Yes. I’m really sorry.”

Have I ever let you try on my earrings before, just for fun?

“Yes.”

Exactly. You just had to…

“Ask you.”

Right. And when you were done, you needed to…

“Put everything away.”

Yep. 

“I’m sorry about that.”

Well, I’m glad to know that it wasn’t B, but I’m still concerned about my medicine cabinet.

“Your what?”

The cabinets in my bathroom – the ones with the mirrors – were wide open. I’m glad to know that B wasn’t in my jewelry, but it looks like she was in my cabinets.

“Well… Uh… That’s not true, either.”

Then why were my cabinets wide open?

“We, um… We miiiight have been looking for more nail polish remover.”

“And we miiiiight have looked for it in your bathroom cabinets.”

“And we miiiiight have forgotten to close them when we were through.”*

I see. (*mystery solved!)

“But B didn’t do any of that. She didn’t go through the cabinets or your jewelry or your hair stuff or your makeup.”

“She can still be our babysitter.”

I’m really glad to hear it. That was a close call. Phew.

——————

So, on the bright side, my children were unwilling to let the babysitter take the fall for their indiscretions. They owned their behavior, apologized, and said they’d do better the next time around. All good things.

On the other hand, there was a little stretching of the truth. Plus ransacked jewelry. And remodeled cupboards.

But perhaps most disappointing of all: they weren’t even remotely capable of covering their tracks. I mean, if you’re going to root through your mom’s earrings, open up your parents’ medicine cabinets, and rummage through and rearrange your mom’s cosmetics in the search for illicit nail polish, the least you could do would be to hide the evidence, you know?

Ah, well. There’s always next time.

IMG_7028
This wasn’t taken the night we discovered their shenanigans, but it may as well have been, because they sleep this way all the time.
They may be lousy rule-breakers, but they do have good taste in nighttime headgear.

 

 

Throwback Thursday – A Score

May 1, 1994.

I don’t really remember many of the details. I was eighteen; he was nineteen. It was a Sunday, and the day was warm – or warm-ish, anyway. We both had wicked bangs.

We’d been crazy about one another for quite a while, had even shared those three magic words (no, I’m not talking about “Oh, thanks, Starbucks!”, although those three words are definitely magical), but – paradoxically – we’d never gone on a real date until now.

“Date” is a bit of a stretch here, too, because neither of us had a car and we weren’t about to spring for a cab, and public transportation was sorely lacking, so we were limited to whatever was within walking distance. He officially asked me to join him – on a date – and so I raced to my room to get ready. I don’t remember if I changed my clothes, although I do remember brushing my hair. I also distinctly remember that I wanted to ensure that I had fresh breath, but – considering that he was waiting for me downstairs – I knew I didn’t have enough time to brush my teeth, so I opted for mouthwash instead.

Except that the miniature, travel-sized bottle of green brew that I hastily grabbed did not contain mouthwash but shampoo (a fact that began to dawn on me as I tipped the bottle back – expecting the thin, Scope-y liquid to immediately flood my mouth – and… nothing… happened… because the shampoo was sloooowly oozing toward the opening of the container). I finally put two and two fully together as the very edge of the ablution reached my lips (but, thankfully, stayed clear of the rest of my mouth), leaving me squeaky clean – if not exactly minty fresh – for my suitor.

We got french fries (Cro Jos [Joes?], they were called, named for the student center in which we purchased them – the enormous wedge kind of fries that are actually a bit too dry and mealy, but which were the rage back then) and took them down to the amphitheater by the library. This was not exactly a hidden, private oasis, so there must have a reason why we chose this destination – other seating was full? Some event was going on? We were overly dramatic and liked the notion anything having to do with the theater? – but it escapes me now.

I have a decent enough memory, especially for “important” things, so you would think I would have a vivid recollection of such a pivotal event. But after the amphitheater… well, that’s pretty much all I remember. We talked. We laughed. Maybe we kissed? Yeah, there was probably kissing, and I probably spilled something on myself. The rest? I have no idea.

But that was the beginning – the unofficial, official beginning – and we haven’t looked back since.

us nyc
April 30, 1994

Twenty years, today. Nick and I have been together for twenty years.

Um, wow.

Which seems impossible, because twenty years was forever ago. And yet, looking at these photos, in some ways it feels like it just happened.

Twenty years. *blink*

Come to think of it, our first date pretty much set the tone for the rest of our relationship. We’re still talking. We’re still laughing. I am certainly still spilling on myself. Some days – hell, some individual moments – are so etched into my mind, I feel as though I can touch and taste them, like the shampoo on the tip of my tongue. The rest just blend together, a blur of I vaguely recall that this happened, the mostly-warm fries eaten on the grass, without anything standing out too particularly much… except that I know Nick was there with me.

Which is pretty much everything I could ask for.

I’m not looking for flashy Ta-Das and scrapbook-worthy (or, nowadays, Facebook-worthy) experiences, although those have been plentiful and much-appreciated (okay, I won’t lie – we’re totally going to Puerto Rico, just us, this summer to celebrate. French fries only take us so far, you know). I’m looking for someone who knows me better than anyone else, who can make me laugh more than anyone else, someone with whom I can share a look from across the room and just know that he knows.

It’s not always pretty, and it’s not always easy – but that’s okay, because the hard stuff is how we’ve gotten to where we are today. And it’s a good place. A really good place.

Especially since we’ve both ditched our bangs.

Can’t wait to see what our #TBT looks like in another twenty years.

us floralia
Floralia, 1994. We were both still sober at this point. I think.