Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Our Postmodern Family

Our Real Modern Family

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while now… I guess ever since we decided to bake up a couple of twins from scratch using borrowed eggs and my forty-seven- year-old oven.  My daughter once called us the “Real Modern Family” – and you know, she’s right.  I’m a Southern woman married to a half-Korean, half-Italian/Slovenian Yankee man twelve years my junior; I have two beautiful twenty-something daughters, an arthritic dappled dachshund and a morbidly obese cat.  And now, after much thought and consideration — and then funding and injections, vaginal suppositories, and appointments — I have started motherhood all over again.  This will be the story of us: our real modern family. Or maybe, more appropriately, our postmodern family.  Postmodern, as in “radical reappraisal.” And our story is, indeed, a radical reappraisal of how to make and nurture a family.

Many things have changed since that summer almost three years ago when we began our in-vitro journey… I will do my best to record current happenings, as well as flashbacks to those glory days of post-modern fertilization, pregnancy pillows, and preeclampsia.  I’m hoping our story will be an inspiration to those battling the frustrations of infertility, to those navigating the beautiful and rugged territory of twindom, and to those who decide to either start a family or do it all over again at a rather ripe age.

Even as I try to type this, I question why I’m doing it. I have nothing special to say. I’m nothing special. I nearly stop before I’ve begun, but then I think… I’m nothing special, true… but I do have something different to offer. I can’t imagine there are too many forty-nine year olds out there lactating. Not too many women out there with twenty-three years difference between their last baby girl and their most recent baby boys, not too many women who, as my father says, “ran the engine and the caboose when it comes to supplying grandchildren.” Not too many women out there who just suffered through a sixteen-month stint of extreme sleep deprivation. If nothing else, I can be a freak show for people to point at and ridicule. Still, I hope I can inspire a few to give postmodern family planning a go.

Family X-Mas 2014



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diary of a prayerful dawn

I’m sitting on my porch this morning, the morning sliding in on silver moth wings over the river, and I’m trying my hardest to find the good. The silver lining. The moth wings on sunrise in the wake of all the darkness.

It’s 37 degrees. Fog lies heavy over the river. The trees are twisted in shrouds of gray. The grass in the neighbor’s lawn is slathered in dew. The birds are trilling their way towards the day.

And I. I am trying.

But yesterday was hard. And the day before. And the day before. I need, we need, all of us, all of humanity, need some miracles.

My daughter has been furloughed. Dentists’ offices are hard hit right now. All those mouths, all those caves of corona potential. So she’s home, on unemployment, for the next ninety days. It’s not the same. Nowhere close. And she’s nowhere close for me to help with much more than money. And while money helps, it just isn’t the same. We need the storm-to-be-calmed kind of miracle.

My other daughter. She’s working a floor where I just learned of multiple confirmed and presumed positive cases. And for the last ten days, she’s made rounds there with no masks. Checking patients without proper PPE — because hospitals are forced to make tough choices right now. Sacrificial choices. Rationing protective gear for higher risk areas. Because no matter what we hear from the oval office, there just isn’t enough to go around. We need a fishes and loaves kind of miracle right now.

And my students. We learned yesterday we won’t be returning to school. Not to the building, at least. And while on-line learning is taking place, it’s just not the same. I want their faces. Their boundless energy. Their spirited answers, gentle ribbing, and endless jokes. Their impromptu sing-alongs at the end of class. I want their contagious joy and youthfulness. I’ve aged a gazillion years in the last three weeks and I cried a gazillions tears yesterday afternoon. We need a water-into-wine miracle.

All the children of mine — and they are all, indeed, mine — are hurting. When one hurts, I hurt. When they all hurt… the pain is unbearable. We all need a healing miracle.

And then there’s my boys. Blissfully unaware, blessedly naive. They hunker down with us here in our home and relish the privilege of having us 24/7. And it is definitely a privilege. I know that. There are so many parents out there worrying over kids home alone without school, without supervision, without food, without support. We need a feeding of five thousand times a hundred thousand miracle.

There’s so much worry and uncertainty. I don’t know how much more of all this hurt I can handle before I break. Before we all break. All of us.

As I type, the sun just keeps climbing the sky, gilding the leaves and banishing the fog and cold. As I type, my phone alerts me to the multiple overnight submissions from my beautiful students, gilding the hardness with resilience and grace. As I type, my youngest son cracks the porch door, eyes twinkling from his fresh, springtime sleep and gives me a smile.

And as I type, I pray.

I pray for a miracle. I pray for life to return.

I pray for an Easter miracle.

on pollen and this pandemic

It’s almost April. In Georgia, the sun is warm, the breeze is balmy, the azaleas are bursting to bloom. Trees are erupting in celadon halos, one after the other, scattering their dander far and wide. It settles on truck beds, on patios, on skin.

As I sit on my back deck, a hawk rides a thermal overhead, while all around me bees buzz, crows caw, wasps flit, dogs bark. The air is alive with life.

It’s also alive with COVID-19, floating unseen and unheard. Until it’s not. Until the coughing starts. The fevers mount.

My husband mows for the first time this season, dry dusty Bermuda silt floats in his wake, catches on the currents, dissipates in the breeze.

And so goes the virus… spittle and nasal exhaust swirling behind one person and into the unsuspecting path of another as they search the aisles for that ever-elusive toilet paper, their weekly ration of milk.

Eyes water, throats burn, lungs react. Is it the pollen — or the Corona?

How crazy is it that so much death and destruction can be carried in the same currents where so much evidence of life still swims?

If we could detect the virus the same way we can detect the pollen, there’s a high likelihood none of us would be out in public unless we had to be… needed to be… for the greater good. Like those heroes out there facing the public, willingly walking into the invisible wake of this pandemic to help their fellow man. They are selfless and intentional.

And we need to stop being selfish, intentional or otherwise.

We need to stop being stupid. Stop taking for granted the lives of the first responders, the nurses and doctors, the grocery clerks and food service folks, the heroes of this world as we now know it.

Not all of us are susceptible to pollen, but we are all susceptible to COVID-19. And at this point, we’ve all been impacted. If not with the virus, then with the fall out of the virus: lost incomes, lost school years, lost loved ones, lost life as we knew it.

As of this morning, more than 124,000 Americans have contracted the virus, and 2,100 Americans have died. Infectious disease expert Dr. Fauci predicts millions of cases in our homeland… and over 100,000 deaths.

It’s’ not all gloom and doom. We have beautiful spring days, full to bursting with new life. So I choose to revel in the earth’s breathtaking beauty. I’m enjoying my backyard, my driveway, the woodland path with the violets sprouting underfoot…

But these days are also full of breathtaking danger. So I respect that danger. I avoid my neighbors, my family members across county, the siren call of social gatherings and the false sense of security because it’s warm and gorgeous outside.

It’s so easy to convince myself that all is right with the world.

But it’s not.

Stop being selfish. Stop being naive. Stay out of the wake of this pandemic. So that more of us may wake tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and eventually we may wake to a more normal world once again.

Stay Home. And Stay Healthy, my friends.

the pancake also rises…

I woke up this morning and almost forgot it was Saturday. All the days are running together like over-easy eggs in a plate of gravy and grits. It’s one big hodgepodge of messy, maddening, fattening days.

So I settled into my morning coffee and began browsing this month’s Southern Living — it arrived yesterday, along with all its “South’s Best” lists.

All it managed to do was make me sad. Page after page of restaurants and resorts, gatherings and get-togethers. And we can do none of it. None. Nada. I can’t take a little road trip to try out the catfish joint outside Oxford or sip the craft cocktails in Savannah. But I can pretend.

And since it is, indeed, Saturday, I decided to pretend I’m visiting a well-established flapjack joint in Euharlee, Georgia. My persona is a traveling journalist for my favorite monthly magazine. So, without further ado…

If it’s Saturday morning in the Candela Kitchen, there’s pancakes on the griddle and bacon in the skillet. Head chef Heather’s been flipping hotcakes for over a quarter-century now, initially for her two growing daughters, but demand grew. Now she feeds a couple of growing kindergartners and a 300 pound Asian football coach. That’s a whole lotta pancakes.

Pancake Saturday is a tradition steeped in southern hospitality and warm Kroger syrup. Chef learned a long time ago, it’s not the cost of the ingredients, but the love put into the making.

As the dishes clank incessantly,the bacon sizzles tantalizingly, and the boys fuss occasionally (who are we kidding, those boys fuss incessantly… At least until they eat. Then all is right in their quarantined world), the pancakes rise.

Yes, that’s right. Rise.

Blame it on Joanna Gaines. It’s her recipe. And it’s the best pancake recipe this particular Chef has ever made. (By the way, she uses bacon grease and a touch of butter, adding even more wait time so the bacon can cook… but Holy Sweet Mother of Baby Jesus.)

They’re fluffy. (Like “so fluffy I could die” from Despicable Me fame. On my honor.) Which makes them well worth the worrisome wait.

Especially because the hush that falls over the Candela clan for half a hotcake second is quite possibly the only sound of silence that will be heard until next Saturday morning rolls around and Chef once more rolls out of bed so the pancakes can rise again.

And so it goes. Ad Nauseam. Chef’s 10th lit students recently learned this Latin phrase and now they’re living it. Talk about real-world application. (Hey, chef is also a teacher and she does what she can.)

So since we’re all stuck… er, safe… since we’re all safe here at home, how’s about we all share our favorite home cooking traditions from around our kitchens in this glorious United — at a safe, six-foot distance,of course — States.

Please. Please tell me your stories. Let’s tour each other’s kitchens and taste each others traditions from the virtual safety of our screens. And maybe, just maybe, stave off the inevitable insanity for just one more day…

By the way, if you want to try your own Joanna Gaines’ super-duper-fluffy-and-lengthy-rise-time pancakes, search the web for Magnolia Table Pancakes. You’ll be glad you did.

Love and Quarantine!

when it's your child who's been tested for COVID-19

I’ve been waiting on my daughter’s COVID-19 test results for the past two days.

Her testing happened Saturday afternoon and was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Occupational Health arranged for her to drive from home to a clinic. Completely robed and masked nurses met her at the car. They immediately masked her as well, then opened all the doors and ushered her into an exam room where they swabbed her nostrils and walked her back to her car. She was in the clinic less than five minutes and never touched anyone or anything.

The nurse categorized her as High Risk. She’s traveled recently. She has all the symptoms (101 fever, extreme cough and debilitating headache, chills, and fatigue — everything but pneumonia, Thank You, Lord). And her job puts her up-close-and-personal with the virus.

She’s a surgeon, a seventh-year chief resident in Dallas, Texas. and one doc in her hospital has already tested positive.

I am an eleven-hour car ride away from her, and she lives alone. I’ve been a tangled-up torrent of worry and fear. I wanted to drop everything and drive to her, but I was told NO, that she must self-quarantine for the duration.

The thought of my girl locked in her tiny apartment, sick and weak, the groceries depleting, the garbage piling up, the loneliness setting in… all by herself, it was almost too much for my heart.

Luckily, she has a wonderful family of resident and attending physicians who surround and love her. I immediately reached out to two of her best friends, asking them to check in on her by phone. They stepped up like the angels they are.

Others swept in to assist as soon as they got word. Her research mentor volunteered to drop food at her door. Colleagues called nightly. Residents FaceTimed her. So many kept her in their sights, relatively speaking… I can never explain how much their support soothed my Mama’s Heart.

Midway through writing this blog, I got word she tested negative. So much weight has been lifted. I really thought the odds were stacked against her.

My sweet girl is embarrassed that she was ever tested. She feels guilty that others had to carry her weight while she was home sick. She’s so thankful she’s been cleared to go back to work and help carry the load.

Well, Mama Bear talking here, so bear with me.

She’s not the one who should be embarrassed. She’s not the one who should feel guilty. She’s doing her part to help fight this pandemic. She’s putting herself deliberately in harm’s way to help people in need.

But there are individuals out there who should be embarrassed and ashamed. People who refuse to see the seriousness of the situation and keep leaving their homes for careless contact with others. Conspiracy theorists who refuse to listen to the experts and think its all hype and hoax. Folks who strongly believe it is their God-given, American-born right to run their lives like normal.

Well, maybe it is. But life is not normal. It’s as far from normal as anything even the oldest among us has ever seen. And while citizens may have a right to live their lives as they choose, they also have the responsibility to look out for their fellow Americans.

And if they don’t care about their fellow man, they should at least care about their own families and friends — who they are putting at tremendous risk every time they venture out.

People are still playing soccer at Dellinger Park. They’re still meeting neighbors for barbecues and beers. They’re still sending their kids out for play dates with friends.

AND they are putting so many people at risk. The elderly. The infirm. And my child. At risk. And that’s not okay with me.

Medical professionals are working their bodies to the breaking point. They are on the front lines, giving so much.

People should at least be willing to give up some of their all-mighty freedoms for this short period of time.

For Goodness Sakes.

Finding Gifts in the Darkness

Last night, on the eve of our boys’ sixth birthday, our family did what we do every night. We turned on a lullaby, and while it played, Tate and I danced in the dark, and Parker and Mike tossed the football.

Tate is into interpretive dance these days — sort of ballet, sort of slow-mo breakdance. Parker is perfecting his quarterback stutter step. He fires three-foot bullets to his father; Tate pirouettes in our pas des deus.

It is my favorite time of day. I love how the boys still curl into our bodies like baby bats as we lift them into bed, clinging to our necks for kisses.

Last night, Mike and I snuck out after tucking them in, to sit on the their new birthday trampoline, have a glass of wine, and stare at the stars. There was a fine mist covering the sky. At first only Venus, in a blurry halo, was visible. But then, the night pulled back her veil — its long, wispy strands rushing off in every direction — to reveal the scattered, bright pinpoints of stars overhead. It was so peaceful.

I couldn’t help considering the chaos and uncertainty in the world right now, contrasted with the quiet, soothing simplicity surrounding us there in the dark.

A plane whirred overhead. An occasional cricket chirped. Someone had lit a bonfire not far away. The slight scent of woodsmoke drifted into the spaces vacated by the mist. A few doors down, the soft murmurs of back porch conversation.

Our neighbors had our same idea… seek refuge in the stillness of the night.

I wished upon a star then… that all the hazy uncertainty surrounding us would dissolve into studded pinpoints of clarity and hope. I prayed for fresh opportunities to emerge from the fog of fear and the fever of disease. Quickly and soon.

And I know it’s going to take a while longer. Still, if people who can stay home would just stay home. If they would stop running the roads and pounding their metaphorical chests and proclaiming themselves immune from the virus… Then it wouldn’t take nearly as long for us all to reach the other side of this pandemic.

The number of cases in Georgia has tripled overnight. Here in Bartow, we almost doubled. We’re climbing that exponential curve. We’re about to start knowing people who are sick. Some of us already do.

So stay home. Please. Find the stillness within to contrast the chaos without.

Sit on your porches, your patios, your trampolines. Sing songs and dance dances here in the dark. Because these are, indeed, dark times.

But there is sweetness to be found inside darkness, too. There is. Find those sweet, quiet rituals that can center your soul and soothe your worries.

Kiss your family. Take long baths. Star gaze. Read. Write. Meditate. Pray. Pray for those who are sick, pray for those who are in the battle zone fighting for patients’ lives, and pray for your fellow man.

Today, the boys have no birthday party. No school celebration. No family gathering.

But they have gifts. Gifts delivered by grandparents maintaining a socially-safe six feet between them. Gifts delivered by Amazon from grandparents with three big states between them. And gifts delivered by a novel virus currently sweeping the world.

Yes, gifts have even arrived courtesy of this pandemic. Because these boys have been gifted with lots of time with their parents. And we’ve been gifted with lots of time with them. And that is a gift not to be taken for granted.

Because they are growing up so fast. And we are growing old even faster.

Yes, there is sweetness to be found in the darkness. So when night pulls back her veil and reveals all her scattered, bright pinpoints of simplicity and light, receive those gifts. Relish them.

Oh… and Stay the F at Home.

flatten the curve, or life as we know it might flatline

If I said I wasn’t scared, I’d be lying. If I said I wasn’t frustrated, I’d be lying.

There’s so much of the unknown about this whole pandemic. It’s creating pandemonium in the world and in our hearts. We are all victims of COVID19. Some physically. Others financially. Still more emotionally.

Our immediate family has been impacted, but so far, it’s been pretty easy on us. Mike and I are both teachers. We’ve got our boys home with us. We’ve got computers and online access and assignments for our students, and books and computers for our boys. We have plenty of food and ample shelter. We can hunker down in our home and ride out this virus relatively (hopefully) unscathed.

But not so with everybody. Not so with my girls. One, a surgeon, lives alone in Dallas, Texas. I worry about her nonstop. She’s putting herself directly in the path of COVID19 every time she enters the hospital. Soon, she’ll be back in the trauma bay, deep in the ER where all patients will initially come.

If she gets sick, there’s no one at home to take care of her. She went to the grocery store last night and there was almost nothing left on the shelves. No milk, no bread… no staples. She found frozen croissants, some cheese products, and precooked bacon. The contents of her grocery sack were slim and random.

My other daughter works in a dental office. Her state has mandated a school shutdown (like most states in our country at this point). That means, she’s going to be home with her two boys and potentially no income.

I worry about my sister. She’s in the hospitality business. She books conventions for corporations at luxury resorts. She has zero income at this point. The market for her profession is far emptier than the slim and random contents of my daughter’s grocery sack.

I worry about my father. He’s 78 and stubborn as his beloved mule Kate. He lives alone and refuses to stockpile a thing. He continues to venture out into the community. His church was the very epicenter of the corona virus in our community. He’s refuses to read articles from his smart phone because he believes it will be infected with a virtual virus, but he readily went back to his church to distribute food to those in need at the food kitchen. He is living in denial. I admire his good will, but I’m insanely frustrated with his lack of sense.

I’m concerned for my friend’s father, who was scheduled to have an urgent surgery this week. It’s now been rescheduled. According to my surg-onc daughter, doctors are currently rescheduling all surgeries except emergent ones. Cancelations include urgent, critical surgeries for cancer patients. It’s an ethical dilemma that’s tearing at her soul.

I worry about my students. So many rely on the sanctuary of our hallways to escape hardships at home. They find refuge and love inside our classrooms that sadly they don’t find inside their houses. These students are now struggling alone. We’ve implemented certain safety nets to try to keep an eye on these students, but some are unknown to us. I fear for them always. I definitely fear for them now.

I am sad for my senior students, who are losing a large chunk of their spring semester — with the possibility of losing even more. They are isolated from friends and missing major milestones. They’re approaching a significant and often uncertain crossroads in their lives — now with the added burden of uncertainties none of us has ever experienced. Their sorrow is not to be ridiculed or minimized. I am so sad for them.

I have friends who’ve had to postpone weddings and proms and birthday parties and (possibly) graduations. Celebrations and life events are being put on hold. We are all hurting. We are all victims of COVID19.

The pandemic is impacting us in so many ways. People need to listen to the experts. Listen to our government. Listen to your friends and family.


Quit feeding the virus. Quit spiking the curve. Have we learned nothing from China and Italy and Korea? Flattening the curve is something we need to take seriously. Staying home is something we need to take seriously.

And yes, a lot of things will flatten right along with that curve — physical health for some; financial health for many; emotional health for us all — if we don’t flatten it, life in all its myriad forms as we know it, just might flatline. We can and will help each other pick up the pieces.

But first, STAY HOME. So we can all get back to normal — a new normal, perhaps — but back to normal.



Sweet Nothings are Everything Right Now

Primary school drop off was a ghost town on Friday morning. So was the toilet paper aisle.

But I would rather the ghost towns be in driveways and aisle-ways than in the hallways of our homes and the alleyways of our hearts.

These are scary times. Every day we hear of more infections, more hospitalizations. The friend two doors down, the principal one county over, the young mother with two sweet littles. The dozens waiting confirmation. The hundreds hosting symptoms.

Every time we check our social media — which is all we can do since this social distancing has been implemented — we see more scary things. Read more scary things.

But perhaps the scariest of all is the vicious political finger-pointing. This virus is targeting us all. Let’s not target each other.

In the past, I’ve been the first to rail against the machine and wag my finger and tongue. But right now, the most important thing for us to do is find our humanity and discard our hate.

We need to band together on our bandwidths, not launch hatred from our laptops.

Italy should be a lesson to us all. How to quarantine, yes. But also, how to love. How to carry on loving one another despite social distancing. In Italy, they’re singing from balconies. Serenading from rooftops.

And we… we can do the same. From our keyboards.

Spread kindness and love via laptop and phone. Share all the puppy pics, the family snapshots, the prayers, the love. Whisper sweet nothings into your friends’ and loved ones’ virtual ears.

Because right now, they are far from nothing. Right now, they’re everything. Because we are running woefully low on Sweetness right now.

My oldest twin boy, five days from six years old, whispered the sweetest little nothing-that’s-everything into my ear yesterday morning.

Parker Candela, age 6(ish)

You said it Parker. And I agree.

Let’s water everyone’s eyes with beautiful things. All the kind, sweet, joyful, loving, prayerful, beautiful things.

Our heart health and humanity depends upon it.

When two people who love each other very much go shopping for eggs…

All kids ask where babies come from at some point or another. Mine asked this week. Specifically, they wanted to know how they got inside my belly.

Well, shit.

I can’t use the old standby I gave the girls at their age… the simplified, poetic generalization about lady parts like flowers and male parts like hummingbirds and springtime pollination.

That whole symbolic sex talk won’t work again this time… because my two sets of children were born twenty-four years apart. And the second set were conceived using no sex whatsoever. Symbolic or otherwise.

Poetic sex is far easier to comprehend than the clinical origins of our twin boys. Instead of birds and flowers, there were needles and meds, and online egg shopping, and paper cups and porn (so I guess there was sex, after all) and petri dishes and plastic tubing.

But there are poetic elements to their story — like how they were conceived in a sterile laboratory. So, irony.

And then there’s the same poetic prelude of how when a mommy and daddy love each other VERY much… (but here’s where it diverges)… they sometimes go shopping for eggs.

So here, boys, is your IVF origin story…

Once upon a time, there was a mother — a mother more autumn than springtime — with older eggs, eggs tired and twisted with age. They were a wee bit too old to hatch more little ones.

But she really wanted siblings for her daughters and progeny for their padre.

She loved her grown girls very, very much. They brought her joy and chaos and laughter and love. And she loved her husband very, very much. He brought her joy and chaos and laughter and love. And she wanted to share more joy and chaos and laughter and love with the world.

She wanted sweet little hands nestled tight in her own once more. And against her cheeks, more soft fuzzy heads of dusk and dandelion fluff.

But those exhausted eggs of hers just didn’t know how to hatch more fuzzy noggins. So she and her mate travelled to a place where workers knew how to coax caviar from crotchety cackle farts. Only this time, they were told, it just couldn’t be done. Her eggs were too ancient. Too cranky. Too tired.

But there are other ways to get babies in your belly, the workers told them.

You can shop for new eggs — perfectly chosen by you and perfectly prepped by us. We have a baby-mixing kitchen, where we blend your new eggs and you bake them up in your belly. It’ll take a little while, though. What do you say?

Well, we said yes. And the eggs we selected did too. (It doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, for whatever reason, things don’t mix up quite right and nobody really knows why. And sometimes fuzzy little noggins don’t hatch from perfectly picked and prepped eggs.)

But these did. Through science and love and magic and miracle.

And six years ago, this month, two leggy lads with fuzzy noggins broke out of my belly and into the light. They said yes. And so did the universe.

And they’ve been spreading joy and chaos ever since.

So there it is. There’s the story of how you boys got in my belly.

No birds, no bees, no storks, no cabbage patch. But plenty of poetry, nonetheless.

Romance at the Waffle House

My valentines and I went to Waffle House for our special dinner this weekend. I’d seen something on social media about how Waffle Houses everywhere were taking reservations and dimming the lights on Valentine’s Day.

Well, it turns out it wasn’t Waffle Houses everywhere, and it wasn’t necessarily the romantic experience I’d dreamed up. This particular one refused to do the whole reservations thing.

There was no romantic music. No flowers. No candlelight…

But candlelight would’ve been wasted anyways. Because it was broad daylight for our dining experience at 4:30 in the afternoon. The sun was so high in the sky the waitress even raised the sunshades — which gave us a fine view of the carwash across the highway.

And there we sat in the stark reality of our twelve-year relationship — eating short order food at octogenarian hours with kindergarten boys flanking us as they fought over booth or counter service.

They were whiney. I was worn out (from a frenzied half-day full of student excuses about how their essays didn’t print and their late grades shouldn’t count…)

The students lost. And the counter won. Only because I was tired of listening to them. (All of them) Plus the counter was closest. And the waitress was eyeballing us warily, with weary shoulders begging us to make a flipping decision.

So I did.

We sat, Boy… Mom… Boy… Dad… and random-teenaged-towhead-with-his-red-MAGA-hat. Nothing says romance more than MAGA. He was by himself. I rest my case.

The MAGA minor left pretty quickly (not long after Mike sat next to him) and soon it was just Mike and me and the boys. They were in solid kindergarten form, chatting about number patterns and bald eagles and whether or not electronics come from nature and how God is probably a boy because it sounds like a Boy Name.

With our food order delivered, and the restaurant clearly between shifts and empty, save us, all three employees took a break. They sat at the counter adjacent to ours, to play on their phones and eat their eggs and ketchup.

As we sat at the counter, dipping toast in sunny eggs and stirring butter into creamy grits, the boys chattered away and the Waffle House crew cut up in a short-order family sort of way. All was cozy and smelled like hash browns.

And then our waitress opened a video on her phone that shouted, “Hey, you old BITCH!” super loud, and she turned about as splotchy as her short-order cook’s ketchup-clad eggs and begged our forgiveness and we all laughed and laughed about it.

Our boys joined in… without having a clue what they were laughing about. They’d been too busy telling us how penguins camouflage themselves.

“We’re school teachers,” Mike told our horrified waitress. “We hear it all the time.”

“Just now, today,” I reassured — because I’m certain somebody with printer issues and a late grade called me that today.

And then our waitress asked my husband about the football team and her — and our — favorite Clemson Tiger, and told us all about how she waits on his family often and how humble and kind they all are. Then she asked me about the boys and if they were indeed twins and if so, were they identical.

And then I looked out the window and saw a woman — with a bouquet of roses riding shotgun in her sedan and strapped in with a seat belt — talking illegally on her phone while blowing smoke out her cracked window. And as the smoke evaporated into the fly-away spit from the carwash across the way, tiny fluorescent rainbows glinted in the motes of the late afternoon sun.

And I realized how perfect this little Valentine dinner was… a perfect little metaphor of our marriage. Rainbows and roses in the distance, full plates in front of us. And love and laughter all around.

Our marriage is cozy and smells more like coffee and kindergarten carnage, than hash browns, but I am one blessed woman. Married to a man who knows I love syrupy sweet on my waffles, not on overly-expensive grand romantic gestures. (That’s why he proposed to my dog the same time he proposed to me…)

Yes, I am one blessed woman.

Now if all the MAGA hats would just leave, all would be right with the world.

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