Below, our anniversary date and its aftermath:
We arrive and are seated at the restaurant. After we place our order, Max begins taking snapshots of everything in the restaurant: the enlarged photos on the walls, the art deco lighting, my wine glass. He has recently begun a restaurant reviews blog, and he is collecting photos for a future post.
After 15 minutes of this trigger happiness, I notice that he has taken a photo of everything and everyone in and outside the restaurant except ME, his wife of 9 years. But I am not one to mince words, at least not after 9 years. So I say, in these exact words,
“Hey! You have taken a photo of everything and everyone in this restaurant except ME! And this is our anniversary!”
To which Max responds, “But you just said outside that you hate being in pictures -”
To which I retort, “I didn’t mean – I mean – I don’t – grrrrr! Will you just take a picture of me??”
And so I lean back ever so sexily into the back of my chair, hands gently folded in my lap, my head tilted ever so slightly. Max takes a shot. And then another. And then another. And then another. Because every time he snaps the camera, I insist on assessing the result, and I am dissatisfied every time.
Our unmemorable but pleasant conversation comes to a lull after the appetizer but before the main course. So I decide to take the bull by the horns and gaze lovingly into my husband’s eyes. He notices, and stares back, asking me, “What?”
I decide to ignore that, and continue to reach my hand out to take his, only I notice that his hands are in his lap, and again I take him by surprise because, to an unsuspecting outsider, like one’s husband, it may appear that I am attempting to steal his fork. Again he asks me, “What?”
“I just want to hold your hand,” I say, biting my tongue so that DAMMIT doesn’t roll off it to ruin this high-potential romantic moment.
At this moment Max places both hands behind his back and whips out a present wrapped in pink paper and a handmade card.
I swear, it was like he had just pulled a rabbit out of a hat. I never even saw him carry the present into the restaurant! I could tell by the shape and size of the present that it was a hardcover book. He has gotten me enough jewelry and boxy shirts over the years to know that no present, aside from a spa getaway (which I have yet to get), delights me more than a good book. The card is also lovely. Not dissimilar from the cards that Fred makes, but it’s the thought that counts. He has written a loving note inside and included the most perfect family photo we have ever taken – all three of us are smiling naturally and beautifully. I want to cry, and I show this scrunched up little face to Max, which he always happily accepts as a heartfelt thanks.
We finish dinner with 30 minutes to spare. Max asks, “What do you want to do now?” And I say, “Fred needs new shoes.” So we drive to Rack Room Shoes on our way back home. The store manager is smoking a cigarette outside and beams when he sees us approaching. He yells, “Welcome back!” and opens the door for us.
We drive home and walk down the block to pick Fred up from Natassha’s. The family is watching a Disney movie and Natassha gives me a glowing report of Fred. She and Sergei smile broadly and are genuinely interested in hearing about our evening. The children are happy and tired. Fred doesn’t want to walk, so Max carries him back home. As he does, he smothers Fred with kisses. Though he didn’t say a word about it all evening, I realize then how much he had missed Fred. I have had many a fight with Max over the years for him to be softer with Fred, that I don’t believe Fred needs to be “toughened” at this young age, and nothing turns me on more than to see my husband be so tender with his baby.
Fred falls asleep at 10 p.m. and so does Max. For the first time in a long time, I feel drunk with guiltless happiness.
Moment #5, The Morning After
At 6:35 I wake up suddenly from what feels like a horrible dream. Max was making eyes at a famous actress who was in town for a premiere, and the actress took him up on his offer to give her a massage. I yell to Max, “It’s our anniversary! You won’t look at me in that way but you will at another woman?!” And there the dream ends, and I immediately yank the covers off to go look for Max.
I find him in the livingroom, and let him know by a wicked frown that I have something I want to talk to him about. I lead him to the couch and tell him about my dream. He smacks his forehead and cries, “Again?!?” Ugh…he says, we had such a nice evening, and now I have ruined his day before it even started, and why am I yelling at him for something he didn’t even do.
And so instead of letting this car veer recklessly down its usual crash course, I decide to keep the blood pressure down, and employ the positive behavioral reinforcement techniques that they use at Fred’s school.
I say to Max, “Okay – you’ve got some choices here. You can either go on and on about how I am ruining YOUR day and make it all about YOU – in which case it will make me even more upset and I will simply go back upstairs – OR – you can read between the lines and understand that what I need right now is REASSURANCE.”
Silence. I get up slowly off the couch, signalling to him that I am about to march right back upstairs.
He sighs. “I…still…think…you’re…attractive.”
Hmph. “Fine. Thank you for saying that.”
Whatever. I go on about my day.
Moment #6, Making Amends
A few hours later, while he is at a cafe waiting for Fred to finish up at his Saturday activity, Max sends me an e-mail to apologize for the morning. He had woken up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep, he says, and wasn’t in the best of moods this morning. He is sorry for not having listened to me well.
And I write back, “Oh, it’s okay. Why couldn’t you fall asleep? Are you alright? Anyway, I really appreciate that you wrote to apologize.”
And so we calmly ended it. It took 9 years to be able to do that.