My wife Beth and I celebrated our 24th Wedding Anniversary this past weekend! How did we celebrate? We went on a date.
Our first “official” date took place when I was a first year medical student and Beth was a senior in college. There were six Williams grads in my class and we had planned a group trip to watch the Williams/Middlebury soccer and football games in Middlebury; I invited Beth to come along as part of the gang. As luck would have it the games turned out to be on the weekend just before our very first set of med school exams. One by one all of my classmates begged off and our casual group trip to Middlebury turned into a date. 27 years later we’re still dating.
In the early going it was pretty easy to keep right on dating after we got married. A quiet evening of board games over a glass of Riesling might be followed a few days later by a rousing night on the town in Burlington. We were college kids, accustomed to the rhythm and rhyme of the school schedule, with lots of common interests and pursuits. It was easy to be together and easy to get on complementary schedules.
Things got a little rougher when we left Burlington after my graduation. Internship and residency are just a grind, and Beth’s first job was third shift at the hospital. 70 and 80 hour work weeks with every third night on call meant some planning was going to be necessary, but we were still only responsible to and for each other. Pretty much every non-working waking hour was spent together. Well, every waking hour for at least one of us at a time, but we were together.
Then along came child number one. Biggest life change ever! Bigger than going to college, choosing a career, or even getting married. Whoa! Only one schedule on the board now, boy. Is he up ? Is he down? Our firstborn started walking at 7 months–a body without a brain. Where did he get to? Have you seen him? Like pretty much every new set of parents our entire lives revolved around the young “Heir”. We were too poor to afford a sitter, let alone childcare. Beth retired from active nursing to stay at home and we became Mom and Dad. Along came number two and the die seemed to be cast. No longer Beth and Darrell, we were parents now. Give me a kiss; I’ll see you after high school when the kids are off to college.
Have you ever seen that comic, the one where the husband dips the corner of his newspaper and the wife peers over her coffee as the last child skips out the door? “Hi, I’m John! Who are you?” I suppose nowadays it would be a Blackberry and a laptop between them, but you get the picture. So did we. Man, it seemed like everyone we knew with kids just off to college was getting divorced, especially the doctors. We missed each other, and we both saw that same, scary comic at the same time. Uh uh. Not us. This “Mom and Dad thing” might be the biggest part of our lives for, oh, 25 years or so, but some way, some how, we were going to find a little place for Beth and Darrell, too.
Thus was born “Date Night.”
Deeply in debt at the conclusion of residency we were too broke to do very much on those early Date Nights. Many’s the time we would have just enough to pay the babysitter. Our date on those nights might have been a single cup of coffee at Burger King, shared between us as we held hands across the table. But the ground rules had been set: other couples were welcome but no kids allowed, and pretty much nothing was more important in any given week than going out on Date Night.
The arrival of the third and final addition to our family coincided with a major move and gifted us with the Lutz sisters. Kerry and Krissie were our go-to sitters for years and years of Date Night. Our ballroom dancing phase (hug your spouse for an hour!) was followed by Ballet subscriptions, wine series, and countless restaurant “discoveries.” Date Night with babysitters made it through two Lutz graduations and and at least one wedding, long enough for us to head out and leave the three White progeny alone at home with their homework.
Until…well…we got kinda predictable I guess, and probably got a little cocky for a bit as well. There we were coming home a little on the early side from a new restaurant, giving ourselves a pat on the back for how well everything was going with the kids at home, when we turned into our EMPTY driveway. It seems son number one ,all of 15 years old and well-versed in the rhythm of Date Night, had taken his Mom’s car out for a drive with his buddies. We got a good chuckle at our own expense while we were awaiting their return, and Beth got quite a giggle watching me work up enough faux indignation to be convincing during the ensuing “discussion”.
Alas, thus ended Date Night as we had known it.
We tell every young couple about our Date Nights, especially where there’s a doctor involved. It’s really still amazing to the two of us how many marriages still fall apart when the kids are gone and it’s back to the original unit, the couple. You see, Date Night really hasn’t gone away; it’s just evolved into something new and something more of the same. Now it’s up together in the morning after the dogs get going and before any of the kids contemplate lift-off. Sharing breakfast and reading the newspaper to each other. A Sunday spent strolling the Hudson Food Festival listening to The Wiggles sing Woodstock (you had to be there). The same rules apply: other couples are welcome, but no kids allowed!
People talk about the importance of going 50/50 in a marriage. I think Beth is more on the mark, though. She talks about marriage as 100/100. Each spouse gives 100% of everything to everything every day. Each hand is “all in” every time you play when it comes to your marriage. Makes a ton of sense, doesn’t it? Date Night was just a small part of 100/100 for us, albeit one that made us smile and gave us lots of great stories, like the night our son called the close of our official Date Night program!
But not the end our our courtship! I almost forgot to tell you about our Honeymoon. What a blast THAT’S been. Next month we’re going to spend a long weekend in San Francisco. Maybe take a drive up to Napa for another visit to wine country.
The Honeymoon isn’t over until you say it is…
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2009 at 6:31 pm and is filed under Random Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.