Every now and then, I’m reminded of how different my life is from the life of my child-free friend. And when I say different, I mean worlds apart—like Mars and Pluto. But we somehow manage to stay connected by planning the occasional dinner out. Take one recent night, for instance.
We met at a lovely sit-down restaurant complete with linen tablecloths, so I was obviously psyched. My friend introduced us to her new boyfriend who, I could tell, really dug my pal based on their hand-holding and long, soulful kisses. (I believe the last time my husband and I smooched like that was on our wedding day.)
We chatted while my boys fought over who gets to hold the blinking thingy that alerts us when our table is ready. Happily the electronic beeper detonated within 10 minutes and we were led to our table, or as I like to call it, the musical chairs.
"I want to sit next to dad!"
"You sat next to him last time!"
Back and forth my kids wrestled with the seats. We were a spectacle. The lovebirds were obviously embarrassed while the other parents in the restaurant just smiled. Quickly I negotiated peace by rearranging the table and we all sat down.
Menus were dispersed and the blissful couple tenderly discussed the fare while I focused on the children’s menu. I debated with the boys over their options, nixed the fries for a vegetable, and avoided total anarchy by agreeing to dessert. Mingled in with this, were my husbands’ questions: "Do I like sea bass?"
"Yes," I replied, "but it comes with scallops and you hate them."
Now I’m scanning the entrées for something for him, while assuring the kids that no, they don’t have to eat all the broccoli I’m forcing them to order, they just have to eat one big "tree."
I then tell my husband he would like the fajitas. "But no green peppers, they give you gas … and get the salsa on the side."
Now I ask you, how is it possible that I can remember this level of minutia but forget where my car keys are? Now that the entire table was ready, the waitress arrived. I politely asked her for a few more minutes, to the complete irritation of my children. "Mom, why does it take you so long to decide?"
I begrudgingly ordered whatever was pictured on the table tent. What does it matter? I haven’t enjoyed a hot meal since 2003.
Once the drinks arrived, like dehydrated longshoreman on leave, my boys started chugging them, so I moved the glasses next to me. Then, I collected the sharp knives, salt and pepper shakers and the bread basket.
Peering over the heap, I listened to my friend’s stories of weekends in wine country and the concert they just attended. Interspersed among these tales were exchanges between the couple of, "I love you more."
"No, I love you more. "
I glanced down at the pile of knives in front me, my eye twitching. To pull it together, I began playing Hangman, then tic-tac-toe with my youngest.
To be honest, I was jealous not of her love life, but of her freshly-showered, well-rested, exuberant self. That used to be me!
Once the food came, I no longer had time to obsess. I was too busy cutting up and blowing on food, placing napkins on laps, making sure nothing touched on the plates, removing garnishes and redistributing drinks. When my husband asked me, "How is your dinner?" I said, "Great!" even though I hadn’t had even one bite yet.
But the crew was settled and all was right with the world. Even the sweethearts were getting used to the flurry of activity. By dessert it was like no time had passed at all between me and my friend. And my jealousy? That vanished the moment my son climbed onto my lap and whispered, "I love you mommy." I whispered back, "I love you more." And right there, in the middle of the nice restaurant with the fancy linen napkins, Mars and Pluto merged. I realized it doesn’t matter that we lead such different lives, because in the universe of friendship, we align perfectly.
Jane Suter, a Hershey mother of two, is a freelance writer and an award-winning columnist.