Good Intent

For every happy story I can tell about me and my girls, there's a dozen that never came to pass. Thousands of things over the years that I meant to do and never did. One of the big ones was date night.

Maggie is now an only child so it is less of a big deal when she has our undivided attention. After all, who is she competing with. But when Elena was alive, it was a big deal for each of them to get me or Kim all to herself. It was great to go somewhere with the two of them – and we often did. Kim or me would take the girls to the park or the library or wherever.  But it was extra special when it was just one of them. No one to take turns with. No need to spend time doing what she wants.

One time Kim and Elena were out in Oberlin and I had to drop our computer off to be repaired. It was around dinner time so I asked Maggie where she wanted to go. She walked into the Chinese restaurant and inspected the menu and decided that this wasn't what she wanted today. If both girls had been there, she wouldn't have had this option. She wanted to go to the chain two doors down that specialized in ribs.

We sat down and she took out one of the crayons they had given her and circled the items on the menu that she wanted. Even though she had chosen the rib joint, she didn't want ribs. She wanted the kids pizza meal. She chose vegetables and dip for her first course and a fruit cup to accompany her pizza. The waiter brought her a root beer and she flirted a bit with him. She discussed the geography facts on her kids menu and chatted with me while she did the word search puzzle. Her meal came with a dessert – a kid sized ice cream sunday. We walked back to the computer store and I thought that in all my life this might have been the best date ever.

I was excited. When Kim and I were back home I said, "we should do this all the time." We should take turns taking the kids out one at a time. They just love it. We should do this all the time.

I didn't.

Oh, from time to time I did. Once in a while one of the kids was busy doing something and I got to take the other one out. Maggie's first two girl scout dances was just me and her. The last two were the three of us. One night when Maggie was busy doing something with Kim, Elena and I went to the Academy Tavern. Julie, a woman we've known there for fourteen years, treated Elena as if she was a grown up customer.

While she waited for her food, Elena engaged me in adult conversation. "So, Daniel," she said, looking to see if it would get a rise out of me, "how do you think?" I smiled back and we talked about this or that. Again, I thought, this is the best date ever. We should do this all the time.

I didn't.

I love these times I got to spend alone with one daughter or the other. I don't second guess the choices I've made in my life. But I do think that a regular date night with one child at a time is a wonderful goal. It sits somewhere next to losing weight, exercising more, writing a novel, and learning an instrument in my box of good intentions.

Published in: on May 22, 2006 at 8:23 am  Comments (4)  

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  1. When I was six (and my little brother was two) I had a huge crush on George, my favorite uncle. George was married to my youngest aunt and he was my first crush…because he was beautiful of course but also because he didn’t treat me like a little kid with no interesting things to say. I was a tiny little girl for my age with big thick glasses and a very sophisticated vocabulary. He actually listened to me, which was amazing…of course I loved him.

    George drove a white T-Bird convertible that was the same age as me, and one magical summer night he took me on my first “date” (with the help of my aunt, who probably put him up to it). I dressed up in a nice summer dress and he wonderfully wore a white tux coat that went quite nicely with the car. He bought me a corsage. We went to a local hamburger joint owned by another uncle and had ice cream sundaes. That’s most of what I remember about it.

    But the really great thing was that my own Dad heard about this date (I suspect I spoke of it often and fondly) and for my next birthday he took me on a surprise shopping spree for a new outfit and then out to dinner at a fancy restaurant in the harbor of my seaside hometown. This was *way* better than a summer date with my uncle…time alone with my hard-working Dad was scarce. Especially fantastic was our short ride on the paddle-wheel boat the restaurant kept for harbor siteseeing tours after dinner. I ordered a “Shirley Temple” and my Dad a “Whiskey Old Fashioned” and I got both of the cherries.

    How can I remember this in such detail? Because it was such a success that I got to do it every year for many years after. We never ordered dessert (unless you count the Shirley Temple), because there was home-made cake and ice cream waiting at home with my presents and Momma and my brother. She completely understood that I loved the birthday date and the grownup conversation we had and the dancing on the paddle-wheeled boat. I didn’t know that my Dad didn’t know how to dance very well…I just put my feet on his and he swung me around.

    I’m not sure it would have been special if we’d done it all the time. From your description of your dates with Maggie and Elena I think you stumbled on the same truth about rarity making those dates more precious.

    Thanks for stirring another happy memory, Daniel. I think you and Kim are amazing parents.

  2. I just found your site and your beautiful, aching stories about Elena. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I’m sitting here a little bit stunned, not quite sure how to move, how to get up and go about my ordinary day and do the ordinary things I need to do, because I have such a strange feeling inside… as though my heart is full and empty at the same time.
    I’ll never forget Elena.

  3. Maggie is not an only child any more than you are a parent of only one daughter.

    Elena will always be a part of your family.

  4. Thank you for sharing your stories and your lives with us. I found you a couple weeks ago and I’ve been reading every day, but I haven’t been sure how to comment. I’m terribly sorry for your loss.

    Your posts have touched me and it sounds like Elena had a brilliant imagination, an inherent ability to make every moment vivid, and an internal light that shined on others. Thank you for sharing her with us. I won’t forget her, even though I was never fortunate enough to meet her in person.

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