Lunch date

A couple weeks ago, my family made our annual pilgrimage to the N.C. mountains to see good friends and great music at Merlefest -- but we couldn't quite manage to travel together.

My husband couldn't get away from work until midday Friday, but we'd rented a cabin starting the previous Wednesday, and I saw no reason to leave it empty. So I piled Nora and all her stuff (plus one tiny suitcase for me) in the car and got an early start on our vacation, just us girls.

We had a full day free on Thursday, so we decided (well, OK, *I* decided) to check out the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway and head down to Blowing Rock. When it was time for lunch, we found a cute-looking restaurant in town and went inside. As soon as we entered, though, I could see that it might not be a kid-friendly place.

My first hint? There were no kids. Backing up that impression was a lack of kids menu or crayons in the hostess station. And the fact that at 36, I was the youngest non-employee in the joint by a good 20 years. Hmmm. I turned to go, but a big group had come in behind us and was blocking the door. Then the hostess was asking me "Lunch for two?" And I said, "Uh, sure."

There were no booths in the restaurant, so we were led to a small, two-seater table next to a fireplace with a real, live roaring fire. Which might have been cozy, except for the fact that 3-year-olds and fire are known not to mix, at least not with good results. Just as Nora was saying "Oooh, what's that?" and trying to squirm away from the jacket I was helping her out of so she could jab a finger in it, the hostess came by, mercifully, and said "You know? It seems to be getting kind of warm in here. Do you mind if I turn this off?" Phew.

No high chair or booster seat was offered, and it seemed kind of futile to ask, so I just plopped Nora in the hard wooden chair farthest from the fireplace and took my seat on the opposite side of the table. And there we were. Two friends dishing. Two pros talking business. Two people on a first date, kind of.

Much to my surprise, Nora stayed put. She leaned forward to look at me, and we just kind of … talked. The waitress was wise enough to bring Nora's pink lemonade in a takeout plastic cup with lid, so she could drink without my help, and I could enjoy my Coke without someone grabbing at it from my lap. I cobbled together a kids meal out of side dish options, and to my great surprise Nora ate just fine with an enormous grown-up fork and no help from me.

We got through the entire meal with nary a fuss, nothing dropped and no loud singing. I think some of the old folks seated around us wanted to high-five us as we left. *I* wanted to high-five us as we left.

Now we're back to our usual at-home dining routine, which is to say lots of complaining, lots of stalling and plenty of loud singing. But at least I can cherish the memory of our unexpected lunch date, just us girls.

* * *

Slowly but surely, spring is arriving (sort of), and it's a great time to get out with your little one and go for a walk. While you're walking, why not support a great local cause?

The 2013 Strollerthon at Bond Park in Cary is a fundraiser for Postpartum Education and Support, a nonprofit group that offers much-needed support and information about emotional and mental health to mothers in our area. Sign up to walk (strollers not required) the easy two-mile course and enjoy kid-themed entertainment and mom-themed health information along the way.

The Strollerthon is Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m. (registration begins at 8 a.m.). Check here for more information, and please do what you can to help out

And if you're a new mom or you know a new mom, please check out Postpartum Education and Support's website, which is full of great information about where to get help or just talk things out when you're having a hard time. It's important to know you're not alone, and PES gets that. Which is why I hope the Strollerthon is a big success.