The chef barely got a joke in, though we all ooohed at the expertly handled flames he lured from one side of the grill to the other. He doused the fire, then brought it back a few minutes later only to tease it with the pepper shaker. I’ve seen the show dozens of times, but I love the food and the fire and the ridiculous jokes at the Japanese steakhouse. Sometimes a chef makes up his own script, but everyone does the smiley face and the “Japanese egg roll,” where the chef spins and then tosses a raw egg without it landing on me. That’s all it takes for me to clap.
We celebrated Valentine’s late this year. It was partly because Richard had to work and partly because going out on Valentine’s Day means waiting an hour for a table and trying to talk over the din of a packed restaurant. Artichokes and pork chops on the couch easily won that contest. The Wednesday after the holiday, we went to Tokyo Garden. We sat next to a couple who’ve been dating for about a year. My new friend and I talked almost nonstop, giving the chef few opportunities for his lines. She has a skill I’m working to acquire: she asks conversation-starting questions. Any time the conversation lulled, she came up with a new one that got us started all over again. She’s going to nursing school right now, but when she’s tired of that, she has potential as a journalist. Our men and the chef gazed silently at the fire and seemed to enjoy it, but she found a question to get my husband talking. She asked, “How have you stayed together so long?” He said, “It’s hard to divorce your best friend.”It’s true. We don’t have many interests in common, but even when we separated ten years into our marriage, we couldn’t help texting late at night, because we were buds before we loved. Friendship has saved us more than once.
Our friendship has suffered now and then, and we’ve learned to nurture it. In my whirlwind of projects and friendships and dreams, I have to make time to sit beside him—not Facebooking at the other end of the couch—but literally right next to him. When I’m out of town, I almost never turn on the TV, but when I’m home, I make time to sit beside him and watch a show that gets us laughing or talking. Home is a nice, inexpensive place to hang, but we break out once in awhile and do something different. After Tokyo Garden, we went to Dave and Busters, where some kid kicked our butts in 3-way air hockey. Later in the week, we came to the Mary Oxley Nature Center for the monthly Full Moon Walk. If our friendship weren’t a priority, there is no way my man would ever take a hike in the woods in the winter in the dark. But since it is a priority, we now have a memory of laughing frogs, hysterical geese and a Bard owl that went off like a monkey after the guide started a hooting contest.
A few hours after Tokyo Garden, I was sleepy. As he pulled the covers up to my chin and stroked my hair, I gave him a sleepy grin and Richard said, “I should have told them about tuckin’s. That’s the key to a long-lasting marriage.” Tuckin’s and touch. Friendship isn’t everything. Make sweet little routines that you do even when they’re inconvenient. And touch—kind, loving, cuddly touch. We can learn from our pets. Doctors have said for years that petting a cat or dog lowers blood pressure and reduces depression. Even better is that stroke of the arm, the kiss on the forehead, the tummy blows that make me giggle uncontrollably.
He’s going to roll his eyes when he reads that last one. J
Lord, give us wisdom in our relationships. Help us to treasure the people You give us, to do the things that extend love and to refresh friendship on a regular basis.