Peter and I went on a date Sunday night. Since nothing says romance like an evening under the stars, we went to the modified tractor pull at the county fair. We dined al fresco on hot dogs, sipped the finest vintage cola through straws, sniffed in the perfume of burning diesel mixed with just a hint of fried food (no manure yet since it was opening day), watched colorfully painted farm vehicles dance through dirt and attempted to whisper sweet nothings in each others ears over the whine of jet engines while surrounded by hundreds of strangers.
Honestly, I can’t picture Peter and me on a date in some fancy, candlelit French restaurant discussing the latest indie film over a glass of pinot grigio. I don’t even know what pinot grigio is. For us, going to the tractor pull was a fun date. In fact, this was the second year in a row that we attended.
We speculated about whether Philip would love or hate attending one of these events. On the one hand, there is quite a bit to see, with smoke pouring out, dirt flying out from the massive tires, and brightly decorated vehicles of all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, the event is LOUD. Philip is a sensory seeker, so he might be thrilled by the combined sights and extreme sounds. Yet, Philip also has very acute hearing, so much so that the buzzing of an insect will make him cringe.
I saw many attendees wearing noise-canceling headphones, many others using earplugs. My dad gave me a pair when we dropped a napping Philip off at my parents’ house before heading to the fairgrounds for the event. I was glad to have the ear plugs. I knew from my experience last year that the tractors modified with whining helicopter engines can be painfully loud. You can feel the vibrations through the bleachers.
Just as they did last year, my parents agreed to watch Philip while we went to the fair for the pull. We don’t go out by ourselves very often, so this was a special treat. What made this year different was what we did after the results of the pull were announced.
We went home. By ourselves.
Last year, we drove to my parents’ to pick up Philip. The tractor pull starts at 6:30 pm, but with over thirty vehicles pulling in four classes, it doesn’t end until after 10:00 pm. That is why, a few weeks ago, Peter suggested we let Philip spend the night with his grandparents.
As you can imagine, I experienced more anxiety about this than Philip.
This was not the first time that Philip has spent the night there. He stayed there when we moved to our current home a year ago May. While he wasn’t upset to be without us, this was before we had established our current sleep schedule. My parents had to deal with a night owl back then. We figured a sleepover would be easier this year since Philip goes to bed earlier.
I had to agree with Peter that this was as good a time as any to try. Both the fairgrounds and our home are only minutes away from my parents’ house. Should something come up, we could easily get there.
When we had made the plans for the date and sleepover, we had not anticipated that Philip would be in the midst of a cold. The fact that he has been suffered from a stuffy nose and cough upped my anxiety a bit. I also hadn’t planned on suffering from the same virus myself. My coughing and nose-blowing certainly didn’t add to the romantic ambiance.
I wrote out a schedule for my parents involving sleep time, bath routines, meals and medicine. I had actually bathed Philip before we went since he still has a phobia of my parents’ bath tub. I went over my instructions, showing my mom the dosages while Peter waited, a bit impatient. Assured by all involved that things would be fine, we finally left.
The weather was perfect for an evening in the grandstand. A lot of other people must have agreed because the event was close to capacity this year. Last year, the stands were not quite as full.
I resisted the urge to call and check on Philip. I did pull my phone out to make sure that the sound of roaring engines hadn’t hid my ringtone. You know, in case Grandma or Grandpa had called.
I was feeling quite tired by the time we got home. I just wanted a dose of NyQuil and then the chance to sleep in bed. I’d been snoozing in the recliner for most of the past week since a coughing, sniffling Philip has been falling asleep on the couch. Not wanting to disturb him by moving him to his own bed, I’ve spent the night with him in the living room.
It was strange not to turn on the nightlights, to skip the cartoons before bed and to not check in his room to see if he is asleep. I replaced those rituals with a check to see that my cell phone was close to bed in case Grandma or Grandpa called.
It was a relief not to be half-awake, listening for a cry or cough or other noise from Philip’s room. Of course, my own coughing woke me up in the middle of the night, so I didn’t get to enjoy interrupted sleep. Hey, we can’t have it all.
But maybe next time. Because now I know we can have a next time. I believe I showed tremendous restraint by not calling my mom as soon as I woke up. Instead, I waited until my lunch break on Monday to get a report. First I called Peter.
“How’s Philip?” I asked.
I was informed that he had a great day at school and appeared to be feeling better.
Next, I called my mom.
“How did it go?”
I was informed by Grandma that Philip slept through the night and did just fine.
Philip did fine. His grandparents did fine. Mommy and Daddy were fine.
It was a fine date night. We’ll have to do it again next year.