On Friday night I got ready to go to dinner with J and his step-brother. At 6:30 p.m. with wet hair, rushed makeup and nothing to wear, a small storm erupted in my bedroom as I plowed through my wardrobe, pulling out tops and skirts, scowling and throwing everything on the floor, and finally pulling down a box of old clothes from the top shelf, last worn some time in 2006. At some point J came into the room, looked first at the mess on the floor, then at me, and without a word turned and walked back out. He knows this mood.
By 8 p.m. in something not too smart and not too subtle (and all black of course), I was seated in a leather chair in the restaurant with the warm, fragrant atmosphere wafting around me.
It took me a few minutes to adjust. The smart restaurant with its high ceilings and glass sculpture chandeliers threw me. I was out of place. A mother now - more used to spending hours in the kitchen wearing sweat pants and Ts, hands always in water at the sink, seventy times a day stooping to pick up toys and scraps and half-chewed things from the floor.
But once, a long time ago, I ate out a lot. A weekly meal in a nice restaurant was just an extension of my week of business meetings, suits, black taxi rides across London, whizzing around, dashing, running, phone calls, always making plans. Eating at a fine restaurant was nothing out of the ordinary. Just another moment in a lively week. Another inconsequential dip in our DINK* income.
And then, here I was, years later, staring down at the utensils arranged in front of me, trying to remember which fork was for what on the white tablecloth. The waiter handed me the wine menu and I looked blankly from California to Italy and quickly handed the menu to someone else.
The food tasted particularly good - better than it would have tasted five years ago when dining out was no big deal. I savoured a buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad and a roasted Atlantic salmon with a porcini mushroom crust with a different enthusiasm.
And as I took in the ambience I couldn't resist peering around the restaurant (me: nosy nora), observing the mostly middle-aged people enjoying their fifty dollar tenderloins and laughing casually with the seasoned look of regular patrons.
It'll be a while before this type of thing is normal, or even occasional, for me again. For now it's large pots of chili and roast dinners with the kids around a noisy, messy table. And that's good too.
*Double Income No Kids