My husband and I didn't have a whole lot of time together without children. We dated through college, and then got married in the middle of grad school - I was 22 and he was 24. We got married six months after the whirlwind which is Emily touched down onto our lives.
I realize, now, that we squandered an awful lot of evenings out. Dinners at Pizza Hut or northern New York's answer to Red Lobster (and a weak, spineless answer it was, to be sure), a quick lunch at places that pronounced au jus "oh juss." We were living in the middle of nowhere and were far too casual about our dining-out choices.
Even after we moved to Salem, about a year before we had Emily, we didn't take adequate advantage of our quiet, childless evenings. A few nice dinners, but as a general rule we went out once a week to a mediocre place rather than saving our measly grad-school dimes to go to places with cloth napkins and wine lists.
And then we had a baby, and we realized our culinary mistake.
We lived hours and hours from any family at all, and knew very few people in the area; I still, seven-plus years later, don't know how people find sitters. Every once in a while we would hit the jackpot, and find someone willing and able and not scary to hold down the fort and let us go out by ourselves, but not often enough.
It's still not often enough. Last year, we had two reliable sitters that we could call on; then they had the gall to graduate and go away to college. Way to keep my priorities straight, girls. Education, schmeducation - you were my ticket to a dressy evening and uninterrupted sentences!
But we've managed, a time or two, to escape, now that my father lives with us and is occasionally willing to set us free, while our please-help-us ad grows ever yellower and lonelier at the high school's Early Childhood Education program. My dad has his faults, here and there, but he's a far sight better than our previous ideas, of setting the children at the curb with a sign reading "Dear Pedophiles, Come Spend Time With Us," or cramming them into a box in the closet with some Gatorade and a handful of Cheerios.
We've taken to skittering down to Portsmouth, about a 20-minute drive down the Spaulding, because that town has enough quaint to make up for the soulless genericness that is our town, and have had truly wonderful meals at The Library and Jumpin' Jay's Fish Cafe. And we'd love to do this more... we're just waiting to figure out how people get babysitters.