Last night the woman I love and I went to the Melting Pot in Albany.
If you are not familiar with The Melting Pot, it is a chain of fondue restaurants, located mostly in the outskirts of large cities. It is what they call a “dining experience”. You get to cook and coat your food right in front of you. You can get the full monty – cheese fondue, then cook your choice of meats in oil or broth, and finish with a host of different chocolate fondues. Decadence is an understatement.
I discovered it ages ago when the kids and I were in Asheville, North Carolina, and it’s become a favorite ever since for special occasions.
I introduced the woman I love to it some time ago and we got the full experience, but the thing we liked the most (OK, “Liked” is yet another understatement.) was the cheese fondue. It was actually a letdown when that pot of gooey bubbling mix of cheeses was gone and we had to go to the meat and chocolate.
This time, we determined to go and get what WE wanted, not the pre-packaged sets the Melting Pot recommends. Two, count them, two pots of bubbling cheese, with all sorts of breads, mushrooms, veggies and fruits to swirl and devour. Did I mention decidence is an understatement?
The closest Melting Pot is about an hour and a half from where we live in the wilds of Southwestern Vermont. A long way for a dinner, you may say, but it wasn’t about dinner, as good as it was. It was about getting away after a long hard few weeks, and having time and sharing an experience that was just the two of us. A place where for a few hours we could be timeless, with no responsibilities or no calls from clients or anyone else, and just be… us.
I have been in a place in my life where that, the ability to simply be with a person or two, to be fully present without distractions and pressures, is the greatest gift. And it makes me do things that some people might think a little nuts.
When I was dating the woman I love, my beloved wife, I would travel two and a half to three hours to have coffee with her. I did that for years. When I first moved to Vermont, I would drive down to Roanoke, Virginia (eleven hours) to see my kids once a month. (Though I will admit I didn’t miss the trip when they moved up here part way through High School.). Next week I am driving down to Philadelphia to have a meal with a friend, and then the next day driving up half a state to have a meal with a cousin. It’s what I do.
I admit that driving so much is probably a certain kind of insanity when we have so many other ways to stay in touch these days: phone, facebook, skype, and a host of others. It’s probably an insanity to drive so far for a gooey dinner away.
But there is value in it for me. We have lots of ways to communicate, but connection comes from presence. There’s an energy that lives in that face to face, uninterrupted, presence.
Most nights, you will find my love and I on the front porch of my house, sitting in our white wicker furniture, just talking. Catching up. Reconnecting. It has become sacred time, where we push back the day and it is just us, and we are reminded each day, each and every day, why we love each other.
We live in a world of interruptions. That is the truth. If we want to feel the depth of relationships, whether it is with our kids or our lovers or our God, we have to give them the gift of presence, focused time without interruptions and pressures. And that runs counter to how our world works these days.
Call me crazy. I’ll drive a long way for a few hours with someone important. I’ll run away for a few getaway hours with my wife when I could fix the same thing at home. Forget new things, I’d rather travel and be than spend and have.
Our cheese extravaganza is done. We are sated, the night just a memory. But that time of presence lives on. It aways does.
Be well. Travel wisely,