Mom lit a fire in the fireplace at 4:30 every weekday afternoon so that our small house would be filled with light and warmth when Dad arrived home at precisely 4:45. At the sound of the back door creaking open, signaling Dad’s arrival, my brother and I would come running. In the kitchen we’d find our father kissing our mother. Their kiss probably lasted only a few seconds, but it seemed longer to my curious little-girl eyes. Then Dad would pull us into an embrace, his polyester trousers brushing against my cheek. Net Mom would pour my brother and me each a soda, and we’d scurry to the dining-room table to drink it. Meanwhile Dad made his way to their bedroom to change, and Mom poured two glasses of sparkling wine and eased into her navy recliner by the crackling fire to wait for him. She wouldn’t take her first sip until he returned.
Dad would come back in bright slacks and a plaid shirt, and he’d stop at my chair and say, “Better head downstairs. It’s our time now.” I’d nod but stay a moment longer to watch as he lowered himself into his own recliner. Then he and my mother would talk while my brother and I went back to the shag-carpeted basement until we were called for dinner at 5:30. Mom and Dad treasured those 45 minutes and guarded them carefully. We were allowed to interrupt only if the house was on fire. I don’t know what they talked about week after week, month after month, but somehow they always had something to say to each other for 25 years.
Until my own married life became crowded by the demands of work and babies, I never understood what it took fro my parents to set aside that time for themselves. My home lacks a fireplace, and with seven children and our ever-changing schedules, my husband and I can’t create the daily consistency I thrived on as a child, but we are trying. We sneak in moments before the sun and the baby are up. We steal minutes in the kitchen while the soup heats. And on warm summer nights we slip outside with our wine-glasses to sit in our wicker porch chairs and drink Syrah by the light of flickering candles. The kids know we are to be interrupted only if the house is on fire.
–Laura Jennison, “Readers Write,” The Sun magazine