Recently, Mike and I celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary. We often joke that we are romantic by doing the most unromantic things. For example, he unloads the dishwasher for me, and I often clean Banjo’s poop off the lawn in the backyard. While these seem like very unromantic gestures, the “romance” lies in that we find ways to show our love by making our partner’s life easier. We don’t just show our love by huge efforts a few times year; instead, we find smaller ways to show our affection throughout the year.
The night before our anniversary, Mike and I sat on our backyard swing.
“We’re not buying cards tomorrow, right?” he asked me as Banjo tried to convince us to throw a tennis ball for him.
“I’m not buying shit,” I assured him.
Because Mike’s company just switched to working four ten-hour days to allow employees to take three-day weekends, we decided to go to a local eatery for a quick dinner instead of our usual drive to the Ocean Mist, a restaurant almost an hour away from our house.
On the morning of our anniversary, our favorite local brewery announced the release of a new beer, appropriately titled “Make This Romance Last.” I had to pick this up!
At the brewery, I told the clerk why I was so excited for this beer. When he offered to enter our phone number for their rewards program, he offered to enter the purchase in a few hours.
“It’ll send your husband a text letting him know he earned points.”
I offered to skip the points, explaining that the “What the f**k, I thought we weren’t doing anything” dance was best enjoyed in person rather than over the phone.
That afternoon, Michael had his first Chili’s experience. We don’t often eat out, and when we do, we rarely go to chains, choosing instead to support local businesses. Somehow, Chilli’s chicken fingers had come up in conversation. On our way home from his baseball camp, we passed a Chilis. Being starving, Michael worked his magic. “You know, Mom, you did say that Chili’s has the best chicken fingers.” Being ravenous myself, I turned into the parking lot.
Chili’s is like a time capsule. While the mosaic-tiled tables I remembered were replaced by chairs with a chili cut out of the back, Chili’s hadn’t changed. Our hostess seated us in the bar area behind a very dusty display area. She asked us about the rewards program. Since I don’t think I had visited a Chili’s since Mike and I were dating, she had to walk me through signing up so we could receive free chips and salsa.
The menu had barely changed. Michael ordered a combo that included ribs and the infamous chicken fingers. Though he admitted that the ribs were not as good as the ones Mike made, the chicken fingers lived up to the hype. “You don’t even need ketchup.”
That night, we drove to the lovely little eatery near our house. Michael talked insistently about Chili’s. “The chicken fingers were so good… And, if you’re a member, the chips and salsa are free… Have you ever had the fajitas, Dad? We should go to Chilis. When was the last time you went to Chili’s, Dad?”
Finally, thoughts of chips, salsa, and fajitas won. We drove to the other side of the city to go to Chili’s… on our anniversary.
Our waiter, Nate, humored Michael as he requested chips and salsa, explaining, “We’re members here,” with pride usually reserved for professional all-star athletes and Mensa members. Nate graciously humored him with the “members only” chips as Michael proceeded to order the same meal he had for lunch. “Happy anniversary,” Mike and I said to each other too many times while we hovered warms chips and enjoyed draft beers.
On our way out, I insisted we snap a picture. We tried several times as we kept moving to allow cars to drive through. “It’s our anniversary!” I exclaimed to a passing minivan, whose driver waved and gave us a thumbs up.
I have to admit that Chili’s was as good as it was in the 90s. Michael loved the attention that came when Nate brought Mike his sizzling fajitas. On the way home, I showed him the video of Cody Rigsby’s pep talk involving Chili’s fajitas. “I’m going to watch this every single morning,” he promised.
While the local restaurant offers food similar to Chili’s, our priority is to support the local businesses benefiting our neighbors, sponsoring local baseball teams, and driving the local economy.
And here’s my takeaway about a wedding anniversary spent eating warm chips and salsa at Chili’s: I cannot think of a better way to celebrate fourteen years of marriage with Mike. We don’t prove our love through big gestures. Rather, we show our love via quick texts throughout the day, emptying the dishwasher because our partner hates to do it, and all of the little gestures that indicate we love each other enough to work as a team and want to make life kinder and more enjoyable for our partner and our child.