Valentine’s Day approached this week. Ethan and I don’t take it too terribly serious, but we do celebrate it with dinner and flowers and chocolates, most of the time. We love finding excuses to dress up and go to fancy places, and Valentine’s day is simply an excellent reason for such activities.
A couple of weeks ago, Ethan came home raving about the meal that had been catered to the physical therapy staff for lunch that day. He said it was the best Italian food he’d ever had: amazing salad, tasty pasta sauce, all around a great experience for him. He found out the name of the restaurant was Monjuni’s; he decided that sounded fancy and it was where he and I were to dine for Valentine’s Day.
So, of course, I buy a new, floor-length dress for the occasion. I spend a couple of hours really doing up my makeup and perfectly curling my hair. I put on the extra tall, hard-to-walk-in high heals that I typically only wear to weddings. Ethan makes sure to pack something extra handsome to change into after he gets off work.
We meet at Monjuni’s after Ethan finishes work on the day we decided to celebrate Valentine’s. Pulling into the parking lot, it looks like a totally respectable place. It’s in a modern strip mall amongst several other restaurants, including one steakhouse featuring valet parking. No red flags go up in my mind. I park. I walk up to the establishment. I enter. The entire crowd of Monjuni’s turns, (pretty sure some forks dropped) and everyone is staring at me. Remember, I’m in a gown. I just walked into “An Italian Grocer, Largest Meatballs in Town!”. My husband is seated at a table across the room from me with his eyes wide open in shock; paralyzed. I think it’s now being made aware to him that a restaurant that caters to an entire hospital physical therapy staff is probably not a Valentine’s Day worthy Italian dining experience. The staff are wearing jeans. The menu is written in dry erase on a board hanging over the cash register. There is no wine list. We’re a little mortified.
In the end, we shovel down some garlic bread and spaghetti (served on Styrofoam) and get out of there. I have to say, the food wasn’t bad, but with the expectations I had going into it, the place was just doomed. Ethan felt so much worse than he should have. It’s not like this was our first date and he really had any reason to impress me. We’re going on six years of marriage; it’s ok. But he still felt the need to take me to a massage parlor later to make up for the mishap. A Valentine’s Day to remember, for sure. We’ve since had several laughs reminiscing upon that evening and sharing the story with others.
On the actual day of February 14th, I had planned to depart, in the evening, to drive back to Indiana for a few days. I’ve always been an ambassador for night time driving. If you can just survive/tolerate driving through the night, you can have a whole extra day at your destination! That’s what I was bound to do for this trip.
I’d arranged for a rental car to be my and Ralphie’s means back to Seymour. Around 8pm on that Thursday night, Ethan dropped me off at the rental car agency in Shreveport and I left for my journey from there.
Arkansas was a labyrinth of dodging deer, left and right. Tennessee was relatively smooth. Passing through Memphis and Nashville helped wake me up a little. Kentucky was the final stretch; I was tired. It didn’t feel good to keep driving while the sun was rising. Once I crossed into Indiana, I had barely an hour to go until the finish line!
Being back in Seymour didn’t bring the tears to my eyes that I’d imagined it would. It felt as if I hadn’t left in the first place. That’s the great thing about being able to call a tiny town your hometown: nothing really changes. A Freddy’s had opened up, and the hospital’s new parking garage was still under construction. Some people around these parts would call that progress, or at least, “change”. But I call it stagnate, and it’s a quaint thing to return to.
I knew the town and those within it change so little that even without calling beforehand, I could pop into my father-in-law’s medical practice and find him doing paperwork in his office, without the slightest doubt that he would be there.
That was a bit of a funny scene: I was approaching his office door inside the practice when his nurses told me he was in the bathroom. I used this opportunity to curl myself up and hide on his desk chair, turning it away from the door, so I’d be there waiting for him when he returned to his paperwork. I definitely thought the prank was more funny than he did, haha. I think he was genuinely frightened at the sight of me hahaha. I hugged him and told him of my through-the-night travels and gifted him an extra donut I’d bought at one of my pit stops.
Eventually, I made my way to the Seymour house. I transferred directly from my car to Martha’s car to drive for meals on wheels with her. Like I never left, y’all, I’m tellin’ ya.
Martha has a charming quality about her, some might call it simply being talkative. I’m the one who’s been in another state for three months and I literally just drove twelve hours straight through the night, yet I don’t believe I said a single word about my life in the hour and a half we drove together. She had lots to fill me in on, referring to what’s happening around town, our church, the hospital, etc. Oh, I just love her. It felt nice, in a strange way, that she spoke to me in the same manner she did when we lived together, and she didn’t completely change the conversational range due to my technically being an “out-of-towner” now.
After meals on wheels, she had some errands to run in the next town north of us. I chose to stay at the house, and I found a bed where I could sleep for the first time in thirty hours. I thought I might spend the rest of the afternoon like that, but about two hours later, Papa Randy got home from work and decided I needed to go check out the renovation updates at their lakehouse. I was certainly still tired, but I was happy to get some time with him. I liked getting to hear his take on what each new area of the home would be used for and anything else he was envisioning.
Later in the evening, one of my brothers-in-law and his girlfriend and their puppy got to the house just in time for wine and dinner. Another brother-in-law and his dog arrived in time for dessert. After cleanup, my brother dropped by to hang out for a while. I wasn’t anticipating to get to see so much family on the very first day I was back in the state, but I’m thankful I did! We played cards so late into the night, I don’t even remember climbing up the stairs and putting myself to bed by the end of it.
Saturday morning, the whole family loaded up and headed to the lakehouse to daydream about the finished project and imagine which pieces of furniture should go where. We wandered around the unwalled rooms and created a mock pool table in the basement to ensure one would truly fit in the end. The place is going to be a work of art when its finished. I’m sure we’ll create beautiful memories there in the years to come.
Later, still that morning, I started getting ready for the main reason I had planned my visit home around this specific weekend: Mamaw’s 70th birthday party (shout-out to my Mamaw Brenda if she’s taking the time to read this right now). My mom and I had planned a simple tea party for her and the other ladies on that side of our family at a local English-owned tea room.
It was only 40 degrees outside, but that wasn’t about to stop me from wearing the spring dress and sunhat I’d bought for this special occasion. My mom and Mamaw picked me up around noon and we made it to the tea room just a bit early for our 1pm reservation.
Mamaw deeply enjoyed the tea party. She’d liked throwing small tea parties for my cousin, Savannah, and I every now and then when we were younger. This event was a sweet tribute to those days. It was fun to eat dainty finger sandwiches and sip tea with my pinky very purposefully pointed upwards. We all shared laughs and drank more tea than any of us had in the past year, accumulated.
I got back to the Seymour house just in time to change clothes and have a quick snack before my friend Liv and her husband Jon came to pick me up to go midnight skiing.
I’ve been snow-skiing only a half a dozen times or so in my life, but I’ve spent every summer since I was 15 water-skiing, so it’s something that feels natural to me and I’ve developed a small talent for it. However, neither Liv nor Jon have ever skied of any sort, so this was a rather experimental night, but we accepted we’d have fun together no matter what.
Yeah…Liv put the ski boots on and practically decided in that moment that this sport was not for her. She headed for the bar in the lodge. Jon attempted to go down one bunny hill with me, and he technically did make it down…eventually…on his hands and knees. He rode the ski lift back to the lodge ad joined Liv at the bar. But they both insisted that I continue to ski until I had my fill. So, I did. I’d never been skiing by myself. It brought about a sense of bravery, or, maybe it was a lack of self-consciousness that I didn’t feel when I skied in a group of people. I didn’t care if I wiped out or if it took fifteen minutes to get down one route. It was a lot of fun actually. I made a few friends out of the strangers that I got paired with on ski lifts. When I got paired with no one on a ski lift, I enjoyed the cool air of the night and soaked up the scenery around me.
I didn’t want to be too terribly rude to Liv and Jon so after an hour and a half of my loner ski session, I joined them in the bar for a beer before they took me back to Seymour.
What an absolutely jam paced first 36 hours back home!
Liv – Authentically