When I got home this evening after a long, difficult week at work, I said to Luke, “Let’s go OUT for dinner tonight!” It’s been a long while since we’ve done that. We often cook or order in and lately, being so busy, the cooking has been uninspired: pasta with sauce from a jar, simple soups, Indian food from foil packs and cans! Eating this way makes me feel like I’m back in college, or just starting out instead of a 30-something (I can’t believe that’s a description I’m going to have to give up in a short while!) with a husband and kid!
Dinner out was just the right thing. We walked across Union Square to Zen Palate. Chiara got to choose her own shoes before we left the apt. and as she has been doing lately, she chose her bright green froggy rainboots. Never mind that it was a gorgeous, clear, crisp evening. She had on her emerald green plastic boots with a cute pink and lavendar ensemble and her cute little lavendar knit hoodie sweater to beat the chill.
Unfortunately, there was a wait for a table in the casual downstairs dining room so rather than risk overestimating Chiara’s patience, we opted for fine dining upstairs. Chiara and Luke took the stairs together — three staircases in all. Our food came quickly and we ate uneventfully. Sounds boring, but with an 18-month-old, having an uneventful restaurant dinner, especially on tablecloths with cloth napkins, was triumphant. I was a little concerned that Chiara wouldn’t be able to handle the restaurant since she had eaten before we left so she wasn’t that hungry. But she kept her interest level up, played with the chopsticks and the bamboo napkin ring; she drank from the teacup of water the waiter gave her, spilling a lot on her lap, but otherwise handling drinking from a cup wtih consummate skill. At one point, when I had placed chopped up pieces of orange-glazed seitan on her plate, she looked at me and said, Thank you!
Luke and I faced each other during dinner — for the first time in a really long time I realized. At home we sit at a counter on barstools and at best are on two sides of a corner. I really felt lucky and relaxed. We are privileged to have the comfort to dine out in New York City whenever we want to, without having to plan ahead. And we are especially privileged to have a daughter who will go anywhere and do anything with us.
During dinner I would look at her little face and feel my heart breaking a tiny bit with every glance. She’s a beautiful, wondrous baby. So full of intelligence, love, curiosity, and her own unique and very engaging personality.
We walked back home, all of us, which is slow-going with a toddler. There was a gorgeous three-quarter moon tonight so we pointed at the sky and waited for Chiara to notice. Moon, moon, moon, she gestured, pointing up. The she did a little dance hopping from one leg to the other because she was so excited to see the moon!
Inevitably, she finally lost her composure on the long walk home. Nothing big or dramatic, but she was just having none of this hold-our-hands-when-you-cross-the-street business. She just let her knees give out and sat on the street for a moment before we cajoled her up and to the curb and offered her the stroller. No, no!, she said. And then she shrugged us off and continued walking. She stopped at the first brownstone stoop we came to and insisted on walking up and down the tall stoop all by herself. Finally, after that triumph she graciously accepted her Apa’s offer to ride in her stroller the rest of the way home.
The moon was behind us so Luke turned her toward it and pulled the stroller in reverse. The rest of the block Chiara kept waving at the sky and saying, “Bye bye, Moon! Bye bye, Moon!”
Luke turned to me and said he never could have imagined how quickly Chiara would develop.
It’s true. In one short year and a half, she has gone from being a milk-sucking, sleeping cuddle of flesh to a walking, capable and even independent toddler with preferences for what she eats, how she eats it, what she wears, how she wears it, where she goes and how she gets there, what she says and how she says it. Amazing!
The best part of the whole evening was that she was in bed by 8:45 — just 15 minutes later than our goal. Of course, she wasn’t exactly asleep yet, but that’s another story altogether.