Despite the fact it is an hour north of our house, and is the birthplace of President Eisenhower, I’m not sure I had even heard of Denison, Texas at this time last year. It certainly never jumped off the map as a town I would take off a day of work to visit.
I’d like to say we never would have spent the two hours required to pack clunky baby accessories for an overnight trip if the La Quinta receptionist had let us know ahead of time they were without cable and internet access, but that’s not entirely true.
When you have a six-month-old child and the limited babysitting options that come with living 800 miles from all his grandparents, the least glamorous destinations become strangely attractive potential day trips.
Since the clinical portion of my wife's nursing program is at the hospital in Denison, I decided to take Gabe and spend the night with her in this strange town she spoke of with such bewilderment. Most of her experiences take place in the hospital, which is uniquely insulated from the fringe weirdness of the area, but front and center to the extreme cases that make their way to the ER on Friday and Saturday nights.
The stories that make their way home with her tend to stem from dinner outings with her classmates. There may be no better way to gauge a town than by breaking bread in one of the local establishments, and if you really want a unique experience, try walking into said establishment during their down time, with a baby.
I woke Gabe up and plucked him from his comfortable car seat, pulling him immediately into the bright light and crisp air of the North Texas afternoon, and hurriedly walked into Johnny Carino’s Country Italian. When we strolled through the door our expressions were similarly confused even though I had been awake for hours and played a role in choosing the restaurant.
My confusion started the second we decided on Carino’s and encountered the phrase Country Italian. As best I could tell from our experience it means your baked tortellini will be brought out by a 22-year-old who drops his g’s and thinks the most effective way to engage a couple with a baby is to discuss his four children, ages 7, 5, 5, and 2.
“Oh, you have twins?”
I suspected there was more than one lucky young lady in the greater Denison area.
It turns out in Denison you get two waiters. One to take your appetizer order, strictly a hobby as he never did relay the information to the kitchen or put it on our bill, and one to take over when the first waiter has to “run to the store for the manager.” His trip to the store took approximately the amount of time it would take someone to go outside and smoke their drug of choice, and based on his demeanor upon returning, is equally as relaxing. I have always said nothing takes the edge off like running a quick errand.
Luckily, our brief replacement waiter also had a son, and thus the ability to regale us with totally relatable parenting tales. He validated Summer’s decision to order a side salad by sharing that his two-year-old enjoys their bread and ranch. Well, actually, just the ranch.
But the real jewel of the dining experience came when the appropriately named Waiter #2 discussed his son’s ability to let he and his baby mama know when he has to poop. The boy typically “walks around in boxers” so when prompted, they put him in a diaper so he can do his business, then clean him up and return him to the comfort of his boxer shorts.
“So he should be easy to potty train,” said Waiter #2.
Yes, I suppose he will, considering he is already out of diapers until he demands you put one on him so he can shit in it and force you to clean him up.
If this power-tripping ranch dressing enthusiast isn’t nicknamed “The Mayor” by age 14, I’ll be stunned.
We left Johnny Carino’s feeling full and awesome about the job we’re doing as parents. All that was left to do was check into our hotel and relax. Most couples who check into the La Quinta Inn off the highway in Denison with a giant bottle of Sutter Home are there to make a baby, so it did seem a little odd to be bringing ours with us, but that’s what constitutes a date night when your spouse is in a demanding program with the most intensive training taking place over the weekends.
Unfortunately that program is contingent on having access to the internet at all times, and for any non-student or meth user to spend the night in Denison without television is unthinkable. When a down-on-her-luck gal at the front desk informed us the hotel was without both – in between phone calls from more than one hotel guest asking what time it was - we had no choice but to cut our trip short and head home.
At this time last year I would have considered two hours of packing, three hours of driving, and what felt like an eternity of parenting chit-chat with a wait staff that put the country in Country Italian a complete waste.
Now I appreciate the uninterrupted time with my wife and son so much I never want to unpack the car.