I remember with great fondness, even a touch of longing, the Saturdays we had before we had kids. They started late in the morning. From this vantage point, as parents of a toddler and a four year old who is a part time toddler, the time we started on weekends was decidedly not late morning. In fact now it would be decidedly midday.
We didn’t need to plan like we do now. The coffee maker was not prepped the night before. In fact it was such a carefree and wondrous time that we might not even have carved out space in our brains to know whether or not we even had coffee to brew. What care we. We lived in a city, the city, New York, and there was always every version of coffee just outside the door. When your only burden is two large coffees to shake the cobwebs off of last night you really don’t care about the four flights of stairs. Why would you.
We’d cook large breakfasts. Maybe we’d fill the large bowl, the deep one that didn’t fit in with the set, with cherries. They show up early in spring. Always a surprise. We’d leave the bowl on the counter until the day made its lazy way to the living room and they’d come with us, half eaten with pits sinking step by step to the bottom of the bowl with each cherry taken. Sometimes they made it to the evening out on the coffee table. They’d be left there as we left for coffee and strolled, never knowing we wouldn’t be back until late in the evening, after the last song Dirty Mac and the Bumper Crop Boys would play at the bar we’d never been to, that we strolled into to drink and conversate. It was no day to be strict with language, we would ‘converse’ at work, but over pints of Frambois/Guinness with our new favorite band we’d never hear from again, we definitely were conversatin’.
Saturdays took different turns to magical outcomes. They were all of a piece, these years when we could capture magic. Boring Saturdays that would border on the mundane often wandered and found something approaching bliss. Sometimes we found ourselves afloat in it. Other times we knew we both wanted something specific. We’d have our coffees, our breakfasts, perhaps an exercise and we knew we had to go get it. Head where we knew it lived. One of us would say, ‘You know what I’d really like to do?’ and without fail the other would guess correctly, ‘Go to New World?’
We lived in the impossibly eclectic and diverse borough of Queens, in the vibrant Astoria neighborhood. Our food options were frankly limitless. But for us the place was always New World. A two and a half hour drive up into the Catskills to a pretty, rural, though easily accessible stretch of road between the picturesque towns of Woodstock and Saugerties. In our case ‘easily accessible’ was relative. I had a car for the summer months that was rented for me by my employer. Other times, and this is certainly crazy, we would find the cheapest local rental place and rent the car for the day. Yep. These are the decisions you can make before kids. Pretty fabulous, right.
We loved New World. The food was fabulous. Slow food, done right and creatively. It was a safe place for us to try new things as there was nothing they offered that wasn’t delicious. It was high end food in a shorts and t-shirt establishment. Gourmet kitchen in an old mountain farmhouse. It’s just great.
The other part of those days that lives now in my mind was the glorious absurdity and extravagant indulgence, the wide eyed romanticism of us taking the day to travel for a decadent meal and time together. We’d have every course offered, bread and white bean dip, blackened string beans with remoulade and then we’d get appetizers. Drinks and meals and desserts and coffees, even an espresso. All in cargo’s and your favorite T-shirt, put on fresh so as not to be crass.
When we had a pain that felt truly life altering we drove there to wallow and tear up and hold hands and celebrate what we still had. When we wondered if we should change this wonderful life by having kids, those days of absurdity served a purpose. We’d debate, taking turns taking either side. It was on one of those rides that we agreed that the argument that took the day was that having, at least trying for a family was an opportunity to experience an essential and fundamental aspect of being human and with the little time we had left we owed it to ourselves to try. It was on these rides that we nervously considered being mom and dad while escaping New York for a piece of magic and Seitan Steak and a Mother’s Milk. It was on these rides that we solidified what was our reality.
When it came time to plan a wedding I was unfortunately not up to the task. I was foolish as many men without the responsibility of family by their mid 30’s can be. I resisted and made difficult for my bride some of the things that should have not even been issues, instead causing her additional challenges asking for compromise when I was truthfully insisting we do certain things my way. By far the thing I regret the most was nixing the photographer. Because despite all of the challenges I may have caused for us in the lead up, the day was amazing. The greatest day of our lives to that point. The easiest part of the planning was where to get married. New World.
We haven’t been in years. Not since before the kids. Our new world, the one of diapers and cuddles and bedtimes and family life is magical and amazing and is one I shudder to think we considered not discovering. But from time to time I can’t help remembering the magic we could make all on our own. The magic we could make for ourselves and for each other.