Blog Sunday is more than over halfway over and I’m just now sitting down to write. I admit I was feeling a little deflated about my turn this week, a bit uninspired and unprepared. Friends online and off gave me suggestions of blog topics, many of them quite good (now I have a list for the future). But with another weekend jam-packed with activities (Saturday: sleepover, basketball, clean house, drive to Berkeley. Sunday: family commitments) there didn’t seem to be time to pull a post together.
But then providence and my awesome parents intervened, agreeing to watch the boys so that Keith and I could spend some time together today. Four hours to be precise! Wow. Do I need to say… this almost never happens. That’s strangely pathetic I know. But somehow I don’t think we are alone in the dilemma of being a young(ish) couple who are wrapped up in raising small children, trying to makes ends meet (sttrrretchhh) and trying to keep up with the demands of work and home.
Sometimes we get a chance to talk on the couch after the kids are in bed, but more like as not we are asleep before the clock hits nine or can barely find time to discuss the shopping list let alone our innermost thoughts. Ships in the night as they say…
Old married folks tell us this is all normal. That this stage will pass and as our children grow so too will the available spaces ‘in between,’ and there will be time for one another again. And I do believe that’s true… but as someone facing four more years of preschool and kindergarten before the youngest is out of the house for longer than 2 hours a day…sometimes I just want to whine, “I can’t wait that long!!“.
So, today’s chance at a hot date was a lovely and welcome reprieve. After our initial confused attempts at trying to decide what to do sans kids (it’s like Stockholm syndrome or something, you forget how it is to be free!) we headed for San Francisco and Golden Gate Park. We found parking near the end of Haight street and decided to stop for a bite to eat at El Balazo taqueria, a favorite of mine from my years working at retail on Haight Street.
Window shopping along the way we passed countless shoes stores with perilous platform creations that back in the day would have had me selling my cd collection, or my soul, for the perfect pair of incredible shoes. Maybe my DNA has scrambled? or maybe I’m just getting older and (gasp) more practical, but the footwear fetish seems to have passed and I made it down Haight without even a twinge of the gimmees.
Lunch was yum (fish tacos and shrimp enchiladas, extra-large camarones) and the decor of Balazo is always appealing. Gorgeous pounded-copper countertops, Guadalupe shrines and portraits of Zapata sang against the turquoise and yellow paint job. I tried to talk Keith into an impromptu photo shoot to prove that we really went on a date but he is as shy of the camera as I am happy-to-pose, so our results were mixed:
From there we walked through the entry to Golden Gate, strenuously avoiding the skanky gutter hippies selling weed in the tunnel and the lovely madness of the children’s playground ( it looked super cool and note to self we’ll bring the boys back here, but – being honest here – if I’m not dealing my kids for four hours I sure as heck don’t want to watch other people deal with theirs!)
As we walked we talked about our boys, catching up on all those unfinished evening conversations: will Maceo continue with violin next year? Maybe Lincoln really should start some kind of martial arts? We even settled on our own private nickname for Royal who is deep in the terrible twos. ” Moco Poco” said Keith in Spanish. “Little booger”.
Where to next? We considered the California Museum of Natural Sciences, but again – mobs of kids – and the $35 ticket price per person was hard to justify. Another time we said, and wandered off to the art show on the concourse in front of the De Young. I was more interested in buying original art than in buying shoes, but our time was ticking and the botanical gardens were calling.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden was established in 1940 and it is a gem the treasure chest that is Golden Gate Park. I love that their motto is “celebrating the bond between people and plants” because it makes me validated for being such a plant nerd. Free for Sf residents (and $7 for non-res adults) it’s a cheaper and more compelling date destination than a movie, and as soon as we walked in I was enchanted.
My sweet and patient husband humored me as I completely geeked out on the plants and landscaping, stopping every few minutes to identify this plant or that, or dragging us back down a path we’d already followed “just to see that, one more time”. He supports my passion for plants and I support his passion for goofy sci-fi-westerns. It works.
My favorite tree had a sign identifying it as the Metrosideros excelsa, or Pohutakawa – the New Zealand Christmas tree, but I dubbed it ‘the dreadlock tree’.
I have seen pohutakawas while living in New Zealand but this specimen must have been very old because it was huge and had ropey tendrils of bark which hung down from it had joined together to make these thick matted ‘locks’ (turns out these are arial roots but I had never seen them before)
It was ancient and sacred looking and smelt like heaven. Keith has to stop me from trying to crawl inside it but I communed with it as much as I could.
Another favorite area was the Redwood Grove with the towering trees, babbling creek and lush and very medicinal looking plants. We stopped at a bench with a plaque reading “for Alice and Stirling” and tried again to capture our ‘dateness’ for the record but without much success. This is my favorite:
The California Native garden was educational (think I changed my mine about planting a California Rose – those things get HUGE!); the succulent garden was gorgeous; the moon viewing garden predictably lacking during the day. We didn’t even cover half of the 55 acres and next time I vow to make it to the Ancient Plant Garden, the Garden of Fragrance and the Meso American Cloud Forest. Time flies when you are daydreaming on a bench with hubby dozing in your lap, and before I knew it, it was already time to head back.
Stopping for a quick pick-me-up at a coffee shop on Haight and Cole and then hitting the freeway home again; gotta get back to Berkeley and the grandparents before the little children turn into monsters, or pumpkins, or what have you.
Everyone fed, watered and loaded up for the final leg of the journey back to Sacramento for Sunday night.
The wheels in the cogs await us: the school week, the work week, the laundry and the seemingly endless demands…but Keith and I held hands on the drive home still savoring our four short hours of time together. Just enough time to remember why we really like each other in the first place. Just enough time to re-connect and laugh about our crazy life. Just enough time to make up a rude little nickname for our sassy little boy. It’s sweet. It’s what gets us through.
I rode home silently vowing to make more opportunities for time alone together knowing that if mama and papa are happy, then all the family will be happy. And that sounds like the perfect excuse to schedule another hot date real soon!