This weekend has been amazing. I was going to put "was" amazing, but it's not over yet. We're home from our trip, but we still have the whole day tomorrow together, so the vacation isn't over just yet.
He took me to Chicago. As a surprise. For a night. To see a play, a musical, in a little independent theater. He kept the surprise for weeks - and would've kept it longer, but yesterday/Saturday, after we'd dropped the girls with Mom, we stopped at the Waffle House to get some breakfast before heading out, and I told him, "Okay, tell me," and he did. Chicago. A swank hotel in the middle of the city. A musical called Thrones!, a parody of Game of Thrones.
The hotel is Acme Hotel Company, and it was fabulous. Hip and trendy, with album covers on the walls of the elevators, a chalkboard hanging from your front door, a giant zipper on the black wall in the living room, orange orbital chairs, a giant hand on the bedroom wall at the head of the bed, glowing red lips on the bathroom mirror. A dozen roses on the table waiting for me, with a card - "10 and 4 with the love of my life". A mini bar with $5 beers and $5 M&M packs. A view of the city from the 10th floor. A bed with 4 pillows and no children.
We didn't sleep the night before. You know, kids. And then we drove 5 hours to get there. The show started at 9:30. The plan was to nap before the show, but that didn't pan out. *wink, wink*
I was worried about getting to the theater on time, and figured if we arrived early, there would be time to walk around and grab a drink or something until curtain. We decided to take an Uber - our first time. Neither of us knew how it worked, so my overly-cautious scheduled pickup got us to the theater more than an hour before the lights were scheduled to go down. And there wasn't a lot happening right next to the theater - a few restaurants and a liquor store, but no good places to sit and have a drink. The box office was open early, though, and so was the theater's bar, so we sat in the mostly-empty lobby and waited, giggling and taking pictures of each other. I drank two little bottles of prosecco. Well, one. Most of the second I spilled on the carpet under my theater seat. Oops.
The show was good. Musical parody theater isn't necessarily my favorite variety, but I love a good show and the energy you get from the actors. We were in the second row, practically on stage ourselves, and the theater was small and intimate. Mid-way through the second act, it's time for Circe's Walk of Shame, and it was so hilarious I laughed until I cried for several full minutes. Everyone in the theater did.
I hoped we'd have the energy after the show for nightclubs and rooftop bars and nightcaps, but there was only enough energy for a forced nightcap at the hotel bar - and that only because they'd given us tickets for free drinks when we checked in. I drank my free drink and went to bed, sad because the night was over, wired because of the excitement, thrilled to finally be going to sleep, and so in love with my dear sweet husband.
It was after 9 a.m., Chicago time, before I got out of bed this morning. That's 10 a.m. local time. I slept in until 10 a.m.! We got up and showered and had coffee and packed up - checkout was at 11, and I was starving. For lunch, we hit Quartino, based on a recommendation from a friend who knows about these things. We were not disappointed - sangria, dates stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto, pasta with braised beef and tomato sauce, all served outside on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. It was decadent.
We walked to Navy Pier, because we needed to do something touristy that wasn't shopping. It was a beautiful weekend for walking in Chicago - the temperature was perfect in the mid-70s, with a light breeze. Too quickly, it was over, time to go back to the car and drive home.
That husband of mine. How did I get so lucky? He keeps me safe, he works so hard to keep me happy, he does his best to help me stay sane. He is a devoted and loving father, an equal partner, a generous lover. I am so fortunate, lucky, blessed, smiled upon to have him by my side.
When we first met, my brain told me to back away slowly and not get close. Heartbreak and sadness and disappointment were inevitable if I pursued him - he as much as told me. He was coming off a heartbreak of his own, much more recent than my still-recent divorce, and he wasn't ready for anything that resembled a relationship, he said. He couldn't get involved with anything of any seriousness, he warned me. I pursued him anyhow, followed him around so much he began comparing me to a puppy, tagging along at his heels. I told him I loved him, knowing he wouldn't say it back, and he didn't. Not that time, at least. But what he gave me, along with all of these warnings, was attention and kindness and a safe place to land at the end of each day - a place where I could just be the Natalie I was, the Natalie I wanted to be all the time but had always, until recently, been too scared to be. He made me feel safe. I cannot overstate that. When I was with him, all of the bad scary things out there in the real world disappeared and stopped mattering. That's why I followed him around and pursued him, because it felt like I at least knew where I stood, and the good was so good, it was totally going to be worth it when the bad finally came. You can't live your life afraid of things, right? I couldn't walk away for fear that he would never love me, because I'd miss out on the way he, at the very least, thought very highly of me.
And now look at us. We're crazy about each other - my, ehhem, doggedness, resulted in him falling head over heels for me within just a few months, and we've been inseparable ever since. We're living our happily ever after. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, sure, but that's what makes it so good. Because even when life is hard, it's not that hard, because we're getting through it together.
10 and 4, baby. 10 and 4.