My friend Ashley and I have gone to lunch once a week, every week, with our kids in tow.
Tessa, Ali, AJ, and Noah. Yes, Noah IS in the photo.
Seriously – we’ve missed less than a dozen weeks in FOUR YEARS.
We do fun things with the kids, too – the Zoo, the McWane Center, the Mall…but we always have lunch afterward.
I remember the very first lunch we had – Ali was younger than Noah is now. AJ was three months old and was grabbing at the toys hanging from her car seat. I was insanely jealous of her skills and couldn’t wait for Ali to be able to grasp objects, but the day seemed like it would never arrive.
We knew our lunches were a treat – most of our friends had started having kids much sooner, and had too many kids to make weekly lunches feasible for their personal sanity level. But we only had one each, so it was easy. And even when Ashley had Tessa, it didn’t change much – she fit right into the groove.
But last Tuesday, we simultaneously realized that our weekly lunches had come to an end.
Herein lies the account of our fateful lunch.
12:30pm: Meet at one of our favorites, Baha Burgers. The ordering line was almost out the door. The older girls want to sit outside, so we decide to divide and conquer. I stand in line to order with Noah, and Ashley takes Ali, AJ, and Tessa out to find a table.
12:34pm: I’m still in line. I see a trail of our little people and Ashley headed back inside. She mouths to me: too cold.
12:35pm: I faintly hear the older girls whining about being indoors. Right after they had whined about being outdoors.
12:38pm: Ashley is trying to get Tessa to sit still in her seat – at 18 months, she’s not really at the “sitting still preferred” age. The older girls are entertaining themselves by pouring salt and pepper on the table – something they had thankfully “grown out of” a year or so ago.
12:40pm: Noah starts screaming. The older girls are arguing about whose fire hat is whose. Tessa doesn’t have a fire hat and wants one desperately. I still haven’t ordered.
12:41pm: Almost my turn to order. I look over at the table and see Ali coating her hands in pepper. I try to ignore it.
12:42pm: I can’t block my obsessive envisioning of her rubbing her eyes with peppered hands and screaming for hours on end.
12:43pm: I can’t help it. I call out to her from the line to quit playing in the pepper. She doesn’t hear me. I call louder, looking like a weirdo, but too afraid to lose my place in line.
12:50pm: I finally make it to our table, carrying Noah screaming in his car seat and four drinks without lids. I tell the girls to not touch the drinks until I get lids, envisioning those full cups of lemonade coating their now salted and peppered selves.
12:51pm: I lid the drinks and pass them out.
12:52pm: I sit down, breathe a sigh of relief, and pick up my hamburger to enjoy the first bite, which is, after all, always the best bite.
12:53pm: Bite almost to my mouth when Ali drops her entire cup of lemonade, lid down, directly onto Noah, who had just quit screaming.
12:53pm: Noah, sopping wet, recommences screaming. Ali is screaming “It was an accident!!”, and Tessa is screaming because Ashley is trying to help me de-soak an infant.
It was THE moment.
Ashley and I look at each other and both know: it’s the end of an era.
Everyone else in the restaurant looks at us and wishes we’d realized this one meal sooner.
But it didn’t end there…
1:30pm: I finally managed to finish my lunch, now covered in sticky lemonade, baby spit up and drool (because Noah insisted on being held, and apparently felt a little bit queasy, after his sister-applied-dousing), and my own food (because it’s hard to eat a juicy hamburger while holding a baby).
1:35pm: We’re walking out of lunch, and Ali sees a bucket of sand. A sand box!, she yells. She runs over and starts digging into it, as I, in slow motion, yell out, NOOOOOO…. that’s for cigarette butts!!! She brushes off her hands and insists that they are now completely clean, refusing all treatment. I douse her in wet wipes and hand sanitizer despite her protests.
1:38pm: I get in the car and get a pen out to fill out a bank deposit slip, and the pen leaks all over my hands.
1:39pm: I mentally check out and block the rest of the day from entering my consciousness, for fear of complete loss of sanity.
And so, when life gives your infant lemonade, it’s time to quit going to lunch.