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.
March 9, 2020 at 8:37 pm
I just read your story on Bitter Southerner and I understand!
Almost lost me here when I read “red hat” for I see “white cone hat” when I see them. Thanks for sharing!
Angie from Phoenix, but my childhood is on the MS-TN line…
March 11, 2020 at 3:17 pm
I agree with you and your “red hat” gut reaction. Thank you for reaching out and thank you for reading!