Over the weekend my husband let me know that he'd made a dinner reservation for Tuesday night.
In response, I looked at him with the kind of bewilderment only the Mom of a two-week-old baby who has her days and nights confused can muster and shouted angrily,
"Why would you do that? Why would anyone who loves me try to make me leave the house?"
"But it's Valentine's Day."
I'd forgotten, to say the least. I managed a half-hearted,
and agreed that I would attempt to spit shine myself enough to be presentable for public consumption if we could make a reservation for no later than 6pm.
So it was that Tuesday night found me limping out towards a small Italian place in Beverly Hills leaning heavily on my honey's arm.
The place was packed and so we ended up at a small corner table that was situated about 6 inches from the table next to us.
David and I settled in for appetizers and some romantic conversation about our eldest child's toilet habits until we found ourselves distracted by the couple at the adjoining table.
They both had to be close to 90. His name was Murray and hers was Estelle. He wore a navy sports coat and she was in a sweater and pearls.
The two of them sat eating quietly for long periods but when they did talk their conversation sounded like this:
MURRAY: You know? These clams were the right choice. They are simply delicious.
ESTELLE: I am so glad you are enjoying them, my darling.
ESTELLE: That sweet waitress was right. This coffee is wonderful.
MURRAY: I'm so happy you like it, sweetheart.
MURRAY: I think we should treat ourselves to the ricotta cheesecake tonight!
ESTELLE: If that sounds good to you, my dear, I'd love it.
David and I were completely transfixed by the sheer wonderfulness of these two people. Their every interaction was so positive, and they just seemed so perfectly thrilled to be sitting together over $12 bowls of pasta at a little Italian restaurant on Valentine's Day.
Every time the waitress cleared away a course Murray and Estelle would reach out to each other and hold hands until the next round of food arrived.
At some point the proximity of our tables caused me to bump elbows with Murray and he excused himself profusely. We got to chatting and they asked us how long we'd been married. When I told them four years Murray laughed and announced happily,
"Well, we've got you beat by fifty-eight!"
They were looking forward to celebrating their 63rd anniversary in the Spring.
We told Murray and Estelle about our two boys and about how excited we were to have a brand new baby girl at home, and they were thrilled for us.
Estelle had lots of advice for surviving a houseful of small children (she had done it herself on a limited budget and without much help),
"Just remember" she said, "When the going gets tough, and it will, that the tough times don't last and you'll be OK in the end. Just stick together and lean on each other, that's what's important."
Murray told David,
"I pray for you that your children someday have children of their own, because you will never know joy in your life like being a Grandparent. We've never been happier in our lives."
And you could tell just talking to Murray and Estelle that it was true. That they had leaned on each other in tough times and that it had made their lives easier. That they had struggled to achieve things side-by-side and now were each grateful to the other as they looked back. That they were, as they neared the end of their journey together, just really happy people.
I will be 99 years old if I make it to my 63rd anniversary, so I'm not super hopeful that David and I can reunite at Murray and Estelle's table on Valentine's Day 2075. But as we said our goodbyes and the two of them got up to leave their table hand in hand, David and I both felt like we'd been given a gift by the Valentine's Day Fairy by their example. (And frankly, said V-Day Fairy owed me BIG TIME after leaving me sobbing while desperately consuming fistfuls of chocolate for every Valentine's Day in my twenties.)
They made it seem like it was a simple thing to enjoy life, treat each other kindly, and keep things in perspective. In reality, of course, we know that it's not all that easy. In the three days since meeting Murray and Estelle, David and I have already thought seriously about murdering each other a half a dozen times as we've tried to juggle three kids, two jobs, and a house between us.
But we're trying at least to stay in touch with our inner Murray and Estelle. We make an effort to be more patient with each other, to enjoy the small moments of joy that come along, and to hold fast to the simple thought that when all else fails...
...we can always try splitting some cheesecake.