“I’ve missed you,” my husband says as he reaches over to hold my hand across the cab of the pickup.

I look at him and smile, “I missed you, too.” Even though we just walked out of the same house together, not really having a reason to miss one another. Tonight we are going on a date, just the two of us. It’s been awhile since we have gone out, too long to remember and too long to admit. Before we left the house my husband asked which vehicle I wanted to take, his or mine. I thought for a few seconds before replying, “Let’s take yours.”

The sound of my husband’s pickup will always remind me of the first dates we had. It’s amazing how certain scents or sounds can instantly take you back to another place and time. In the beginning our relationship was long-distance, with hundreds of miles between us. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I heard his pickup pull up outside my apartment. Even though I was expecting him, I still would have recognized the sound immediately. Now when I hear that pickup in our driveway, the feeling that washes over me is usually relief after a long day at home. 

Those dates were just about us. We were able to drop everything and go anywhere we wanted. We didn’t have to pack a diaper bag with snacks, extra outfits and toys. It’s hard to totally remember what life was like before having babies. Every once in awhile when I hear a certain song on the radio, my mind will flash to a memory of one of those early dates. The dates where you talk non-stop and the only interruptions at your table are from the waiter or waitress asking if you want another drink. Each bite was savored, not rushed. Dinner out with kids is always an experience, and one you’re not usually very excited about experiencing again. Those nights end with my husband and I looking at each other with exasperation in our eyes, wondering why we thought it was a good idea.

Most of the time, married date nights look a lot different from dating date nights. Like spending the afternoon trying to wear out the kids so they go to bed on time (early if you’re lucky). Taking no risk of an ill-fated too-late afternoon nap for the three-and-a-half-year-old. On these nights we try to get the kids to bed as early as possible, although there is the inevitable extra story and drink of water that they need before settling down. Once the kids are in bed, I glance at the clock and try to decide if 8 o’clock is too late to rent a movie. “If we start a movie now, it probably won’t be over until almost 10,” I say to my husband, as I’m already imagining pulling on my sweatpants and grabbing a book. “And?” he replies. “And that’s late!” I say.

My 20-something self couldn’t have imagined an exciting Friday night would be sweatpants and a rented movie on the couch at 8 o’clock at night. But my 20-something self had also given up hope that I would actually find love. Yes, that sappy cliché of, “I want to find my one true love”. Most of us have it, right? I spent my 20s in mismatched relationships, looking for love in all the wrong places. But clearly I wasn’t looking and listening for the right thing.

On those special rare occasions, date night looks like putting on your favorite pair of jeans, kissing your kids goodbye and climbing into your husband’s old pickup. When I close my eyes and hear the hum of the engine, I’m taken back to a time when all I was thinking about was the future. A future with this man who I hoped would one day be my husband. A future with my own family. As we drive away from the home and the family we have made together, holding hands across the center console, I know that love doesn’t always come to us the way we expect. And mine came to me in this old blue pickup.

Stacy Bronec

Stacy is a farm wife, mom of three, lover of baked goods, and writer. She and her husband farm and ranch in the middle of nowhere Montana. In her previous life, she was a high school counselor. Now, when she’s not taking meals to the field or cleaning grain from the dryer vent, she’s doing barre workouts in her kitchen, reading, or scribbling notes to turn into stories. She has been published on Coffee + Crumbs, Motherly, and Her View From Home. She is also a regular contributor at The Mom Hour. You can find her occasionally on her blog at stacybronec.com.