It's been one of those months, in which you start tending to long-overdue tasks just because it's easier than listening to the emptiness of the house. Not that I minded … entirely; I'm notorious for liking large dollops of privacy with sprinkles on top, but this has been a bit much, even for me.I've called it the San Francisco Project, just because I don't know its real name. It's the one that sent Jeff out to—one guess—for three weeks, and promises to possibly send him out there again come February or so. It's meant not too many dinners together, unless you count my dropping off soups and the like for Jeff at his lab, and so last night was unusual.

We have our little traditions, Friday night dinner being one of them; we go out to a restaurant we like, settle in, chow down, and talk. Not purposefully, because if it were that way, we'd be doing it wrong. Just catching up.

We've been in an Indian-food rut for quite some time, as we've been dealing with a drought of decent Indian food in this town for several years and are happy to finally have an Indian restaurant in town that doesn't stink. We've become regulars, of a sort. So when Jeff suggested last night that we have Thai instead, I was surprised and agreeable.

"Six-thirty?" he suggested, and reminded me that if we drove in separately, we'd get to eat about a half-hour earlier than we would if he had to meet up with me at the house first. Plus, it meant we were more likely to avoid the madding crowd; after all, what else is there to do on a sleepy, chilly Friday night in Huntsville aside from chow down and go to a movie?


I beat him there, traffic having snarled his drive, and I doodled in my notepad while I waited. Mundanities: remember to take your tea strainer with you to Atlanta next week, and perhaps plan on hitting DSW first thing in the hopes of locating a well-fitting pair of loafers.

I forgot what I was wearing: blue sweater, blue wrap skirt, white tights … and my Santa hat. I was, apparently, completely oblivious to the stares and discussions that were going on two tables down from me.

There is something in my countenance that makes me eminently approachable. Even if I'm not smiling, which I tend to do for no apparent reason, I seem to have a sign over my head that says "Harmless! Please approach!" (Or, as my spouse likes to point out, people just come up to me and tell me things. We have no idea why, really. Pheromones are as good of an excuse as any.)

I looked up when the woman tapped me on the shoulder. Blond, late-thirties, a little careworn around the edges, a kind smile.

"I'm sorry to bother you," she said, "but you look like you're waiting for someone, and I thought you'd like to hear this."

I closed my notebook, nodded, waited.

"While we were eating, my children --" at which point she gestured over to her table, "saw your hat and said, 'Mom! Santa's eating dinner at the same restaurant we are!'" She smiled sheepishly. "I reminded them that there was no such thing as Santa, and they looked at me with these funny expressions and my daughter said, 'Then she's an elf!'" By this time, she was grinning fully. "I just thought you'd enjoy knowing that."

I thanked her, and they left the restaurant. Jeff slid into his place at the table moments later, and I said, "Just so you know, your wife is apparently an elf."

"Oh, really!" he replied.

"Bet you didn't know that." We both laughed.

(Now to figure out what my magic elf powers are.)

It was a good dinner. We talked over a lot of things that have had to stay unsaid while we were both busy: he with his project, and I with mine. It was the kind of cozy, lazy dinner that I just can't quite figure out how to have with anyone else but him. We've been leading separate lives for the past month, which will hopefully change after this next week. His project will calm down, and I'll wrap up my errands in Atlanta.

It's enough to make me a happy little elf.

Maybe I should get a hat.


You're an elf ... you bake cookies! I'll be by the tree later for some chocolate chip goodness :)

No, you have to be good to earn cookies. Try again, darlin'. ;)

An Elf? Okay, I can see it... Elfin painting Elfin coding Elfin baking (which always make me think of the Keebler elves)