The second day we were in Dubrovnik, my husband closed his laptop after 11 hours of phone calls and called it the end of his work day. “Let’s go into Old Town and just walk around and find a place to eat,” he suggested.
I had spent all day, every day on this trip with the kids, so my work day never really ended. Even at 2 in the morning, I was on call should there be a nightmare, or a misplaced toy or a potty need. And the girls were accustomed to getting up at 6 AM, at which point I was changing diapers, making breakfast, etc. I assumed that, at this late hour, the girls would break down and have another temper tantrum over food like the night before. I couldn’t handle any more tears, and I was fresh out of adventure.
“We’ll take a taxi,” he said. “It will be easy.” “They do have Uber here,” I offered, and my husband lit up. “Really? Do you want to just move here?” he asked, only half joking.
Twenty minutes later as the Uber drove long the fortress walls of Old Town, Squirrel exclaimed, “That’s the biggest castle I’ve ever seen!” “That’s the biggest castle I’ve ever seen!” parroted Goose. The husband was absolutely giddy. “That’s the biggest castle I’ve ever seen too!” he said. “And I”m older than both of you!”
So naturally, when the Uber dropped us off at the gates of the castle, what did they want to do? “Look, a playground! A playground!!!! Can we mom? Can we?” squealed the girls. “Ask your father.” “Can we dad?” Dad laughed. “Put this in your blog,” he said.
Eventually, Dad enticed the girls to go through a tiny doorway — he called it the “elf door” — where the walls opened up into a entire city of stone. And while the buildings and streets were ancient, along every alley and up every staircase there were small tables for people to relax and eat. It was an amazing mix of ancient and modern. There was candy shop with huge barrels of candy. Kids kicked a ball along the main square like it was no big deal and expensive shops with fashionable clothes were everywhere. If only I had my credit card! I let my husband lead and enjoyed my family’s enthusiasm.
The husband led us through the streets to the port and we looked at the fishes. Or rather, he held onto the girls and let them peer over the edge into the deep deep water. I repeated to myself, “You can trust him. He used to be a life guard. You can trust him.” Miraculously, no one fell into the harbor. Goose told me she missed Mr. Pete and his boat. We all do, Goose. We all do.
We looked back at the city and agreed upon a waterfront restaurant — not the expensive one that had a piano player that Squirrel wanted to go to, but an out of the way one where the kids — and Dad — could be kids. Goose enjoyed the Dad jokes.
After dinner, we again followed Dad who decided to take the darkened alley rather than the lighted main drag. It was getting late. An old wooden sign in the wall said “Cold Drinks. Best View. This Way.” “Seems legit” I thought as I watched my husband take our eldest daughter into a hole in the wall.
I snapped a quick, blurry picture in case I had to identify to police where in the labyrinth I lost them. I followed them and then stopped in disbelief.
“See,” my husband said. “Always trust the holes in the wall,” as he gestured to the sunset that was just disappearing on the horizon. Below us languages I recognized floated up among the sounds of tinkling glass and beverages being consumed. This could have been my paradise.
Of course, we couldn’t really stop there with two small tired children, so we kept going down darker and darker alleys, my panic rising, until finally, my husband took another turn, went down what seemed like hundreds of dark stairs, and came out in a familiar place. Dad danced with Goose on his shoulders — of course he knew where he was all along — and people laughed. The entire city was in on Dad’s joke.
“Time to go home,” I said, thinking of bedtime, the 762 small tasks it would take to get the girls to sleep.
“You promised us candy!” squealed Squirrel. “Do you know how to get back to the candy store?” my husband asked. She assured us she did, her five-year old eyes ablaze with promises of sugar. She clearly has the same sense of direction of her father, for lo and behold she found the candy paradise.
Afterwards, Squirrel used the bag of candy as a lure to get Goose to walk back to the main gates where we got another Uber home. All in all, a great evening. I’m thinking I should trust my husband more often.