In the early years of our marriage, going out to dinner was a really big deal for Marianne and me because funds were so scarce at that time. These days, we typically dine out once a week as an established “date night” tradition; and, while we deliberately avoid the higher end (i.e., more expensive) restaurants, we also never really worry about paying the tab.
After a recent meal, as we were waiting for our check, an embarrassing memory came to mind. We were a young and still childless couple, and we had finally saved up enough money to treat ourselves to dinner out. I recommended that we try a restaurant my first family used to patronize when I was a boy. I remembered really liking their Italian dishes and looked forward to savoring one of my childhood favorites once again.
When we arrived, I noticed immediately that the restaurant had a new name; and, that was not the only thing that had changed. We were seated and handed menus, and our server told us that she would be back in a few minutes to take our order. When we looked at our choices – and their cost – our hearts sank. We didn’t have nearly enough money.
When our server came back, I explained that we had come there so that I could introduce my wife to one of my favorite childhood restaurants, and we’d not been prepared for the change in ownership and accompanying changes to the menu. In fact, I pointed out, my favorite childhood dish was no longer offered. We were told that the chef could make that dish as a special order, but I protested that it just wouldn’t be the same.
At that point, I think our server perceived what was happening, and she said: “I understand sir.” We thanked her for her kindness, gathered our things, and left. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it felt as though the other diners were staring at us as we exited, that they were somehow in on our shame.
Of course, I felt awful at the time, but now I am honestly grateful for the memory. Part of married life is walking through hardship together. Somehow, “date night” dinners are tastier and more meaningful now because we couldn’t afford that long-ago meal.
As I look across the table, that same beautiful woman is still my companion, for richer or poorer. We are so very blessed.