My husband and I are parents not used to going out in the evening together—just us— no preschooler in tow. I may hit a book club or Target by myself around 8p.m. My husband may work late one or two nights a week. Weekends are either movie nights in the living room, or we’ll pop popcorn and work on personal writing projects, he at the dining room table, I nearby in the armchair with laptop on lap. The last movie we saw in a theatre was “The Smurfs”, our little boy sitting between us munching a pretzel and popcorn and we didn’t watch the movie, but watched him watching the movie, relishing his little gasps and laughs.We started our family a tad later than most people and we’re only having this 1 breathtaking (extremely early rising) little boy. We don’t want to miss a thing–bathtime, storytime, songs. So, no. We don’t get out much–alone–together–dos a dos–Mama and Papa–on the town–us.
This is what happened Saturday:
Driving to my poetry reading in Venice, about half way up the Sepulveda Pass my husband suddenly worried he had locked the front door of the house, locking my mom (our babysitter for the evening, traveling all the way down from Santa Barbara to do the deed) and our son out. They had left before we did, meandering down the sidewalk for an evening stroll through the neighborhood. And my husband worried that, out of habit, he had flipped the thingy on the knob and locked the door. I think I locked them out, he told me and I could tell he was faking a calm voice. I think I locked them out, PB.
Ha ha, I laughed. Good thing they can get in the back door.
They can’t, my husband assured me. I locked and chained it.
Oh, I said. Oh, F * * *!
Although we tried my mom’s cell phone repeatedly before arriving in Venice, she didn’t answer. Or call us back during the reading. Or when my husband, by now really believing his fears, called her during the reading. And I read last, so by then we were both in the super-crazed-with-worry zone, that irrational place parents unaccustomed to going out alone together visit when they stop thinking clearly and start responding only to panic. After my last poem, I bid a hasty goodbye to the other poetry readers and poetry host and we hurried to our minivan and sped the hell home. Did we try my mom’s cell phone again before leaving Venice? No. Did we try my mom’s cell phone again as we zoomed along the freeway? No. We were too busy panicking. My husband envisioned my mom and our son huddled on the chaise longue on our back patio, freezing. Despite our current heatwave and the obnoxiously warm evening, I instantly absconded with his vision and made it mine. It was the longest car ride of our lives.
Back home, I was out of the minivan before my husband had cut the engine, but somehow he beat me to the front door.
The lights are on, a very good sign! I told him as the keys slipped from his fingers and to the mat. OH MY GOD OPEN THE F****** AS*H**E PIECE OF S*** DOOR! (perhaps my most poetic phrase of the evening)
We barged inside. And there was my mother, a damp washcloth in her hands, staring at us in surprise. She was in the middle of cleansing her face and preparing for bed. Our son had been asleep for over an hour. All was peace and calm and serenity. No one had been locked out. She had been so busy playing with her grandson, she didn’t even think about checking her cell phone embedded in the guestroom’s pillow.
My husband clutched his chest and started hyperventilating. I ran for the wine bottle. For myself, not him.
This is what my mom told us (with patience): I would have gone to a neighbor’s and called the police. I’m sure policemen have skeleton keys. In any case, I would never, she told us, have sat out in the dark back yard on a chaise longue with my grandson. I have far too much previous experience as a parent to do such a thing. I will, however, she said (without a trace of wryness—I think), be sure to keep my cell phone on my person the next time I babysit for you two.
My husband had a shot of cognac and I sucked down half a bottle of chardonnay as we emitted the freaky, stilted laughter only idiots are capable of. When my mom suggested we go back out and continue our date night, we quipped: NO. We’ll just stay here. Ha ha, we said, kicking off our shoes and pressing into the couch cushions, inhaling more alcohol. We’ll try a date night again in about 10 years. No worries. We’ll just. Stay. Here.
Well—how was your poetry reading? my mom asked.
My what? I said.
Half an hour later, we were all asleep while somewhere out in the wilds of Los Angeles poets partied by the beach and shared favorite author quotes and argued over the proper scansion of Shakespeare’s Dick The Third’s line: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, seriously fun date nights convened pub to movie theatre to comedy house to Melrose Avenue as my husband and I, exhausted from a panic both irrational and completely unnecessary, slept.