“You two, go on!” the babysitter said, shooing us toward the door. “We’ll be just fine.” Steven was asleep in her arms, swaddled in a baby-sized blanket decorated with dancing penguins. He didn’t look much bigger than the penguins.
“Maybe we should just stay home,” I suggested.
“Oh, no!” the sitter said with motherly wisdom. “You NEED to have a night to yourselves.” She nuzzled the little bundle: “We’ll be fine, won’t we, Peanut?”
Peanut? That’s what I call him!
“We should get going,” Carla said. “Dinner reservations are at 5:30, and the movie starts at 7.”
I knew this night would come sooner or later. I was just hoping it would be later.
“We left a list of numbers by the phone,” I explained, even though I’d already explained it twice. “Restaurant … theater … doctor … Grandma and Grandpa …”
“Go on, now, you’re going to be late,” the sitter said.
“Thermometer’s in the medicine cabinet,” I said, continuing my spiel. “ … diapers and wipes are in his room. Clean bottles are on the counter. He likes the brown teddy bear…”
“Go!” the sitter said. Carla leaned over and kissed Steven’s cheek, and I kissed him on the forehead.
“See you in a little while, Peanut,” I whispered.
I didn’t quite reach my goal of making the drive without saying something like, “I wonder how Steven’s doing." But at least it waited until I was out of the garage.
The hostess greeted us when we walked into the restaurant: “How’s that new baby?”
“Great!” I said. If she hadn’t been busy seating guests I would have taken out my wallet, shown her the photos and told the story that came with each; through frequent telling it was a presentation I’d trimmed to 13 minutes.
“He’s with a sitter tonight,” Carla explained.
“Mom and Dad need a night out once in a while,” the waitress said. “I saved you a table next to the window.”
“Do you know what Steven said this morning?” I asked, easing into my chair.
Carla smiled in anticipation. “What?”
“Yeah! We were reading ‘Goodnight Moon’, and we got to that part about the little mouse and he just said ‘goo’!”
“I think he’s going to talk early,” Carla said, and I made a mental note to look up the number for Harvard.
I didn’t realize that the server was at our table until ice cubes rattled into our water glasses.
“Can I get you started with an appetizer?” she asked.
“Maybe some of those mozzarella sticks?” I said, deferring to Carla.
“We’ve got Steven to think about now,” she said. “We’ll have to start eating better. More vegetables.”
She was right. “Bring some of those onion rings, too,” I said.
The server made a note on her pad and headed for the kitchen.
“He’s got a birthday coming up,” I said. We no longer had to explain who “he” was ... “he” had become the topic of nearly all our conversations.
“Not for six months yet,” Carla said.
“That’s what I mean … his six-month birthday. I was thinking maybe I could get him a baseball glove …”
Something prickled behind my eyes. Must have been the onions.
The waitress reappeared, pen poised over her pad: “Would you like to order, or do you need a few minutes?”
“A few minutes,” Carla and I said together. The waitress vanished.
“We watched 'Sesame Street' today,” I said around a mouthful of mozzarella. “Steven liked Elmo, but I think Big Bid scared him.” Me, too.
We sipped ice water and got lost in our thoughts until the waitress asked, “Ready?”
Carla and I looked at each other across the table.
“We got pretty filled up on the appetizers,” I said. “Just the check.”
The server gave us a knowing smile. “The first time is hard,” she said.
“You’re back already?” the babysitter said when we walked into the house at 6:30. Steven was nestled into the crook of her arm, happily sucking on a bottle.
“We decided not to go to the movie,” I explained. “We were both pretty tired. But dinner was good.”
If you consider two appetizers and water “dinner”
Steven finished the bottle and the sitter started to reposition him.
“I’ll do that,” I said. I took Steven from her arms, rested him on my shoulder and patted his back until it elicited a tiny burp.
“I’ll be on my way, then,” the sitter said. “I just changed him and was going to put him to bed. He’s been a good boy …”
“Thanks for coming,” I said. “We’ll do it again soon.” But not too soon.
Steven was asleep before she was out the door. I carried him to his room and laid him in his crib just as the moon peeked through the slats of the window blind.
Maybe next time we’ll just have dessert.
Sleep well, Peanut. I’ll be here when you wake up.