When I was very small, my grandmother took me to a pizza place. I don’t recall my first time there, or my second or third or twenty-seventh. For the most part, the trips form a mosaic of pizza eating, root beer drinking, and grandma schmoozing.
Whenever Marge (as she prefers being called) visited from Dayton, the two of us would take off in her Oldsmobile station wagon for our evening. Once at our pizza place, after I helped her out of the car, Marge would walk across the parking lot with her purse held behind her back, swaying from left to right like a church bell in Las Vegas. As a young boy, I would run ahead impatiently, only to glance back at her slowly trailing figure, her gray permed hair glistening in the 5 o’clock Ohio sun. If that isn’t aged beauty, I don’t know what is.
The workers were always happy to see us. Sometimes the pizza-making man, his long ponytail clamped by a backwards baseball cap, gave me a chunk of pepperoni that I chewed on for all it was worth. Despite the sign behind him -- ABSOLUTELY NO CHECKS ACCEPTED -- he gladly took a check from Marge, made out beforehand, exactly to the penny.
We always sat at the same table in the corner, our backs against the wall like mobsters. Marge made conversation with our favorite waitress, Christine, while I sat and admired my grandmother’s eloquent enthusiasm.
o Christine knew our order by heart:
o two waters
o two side salads, French dressing
o two rolls
o child’s spaghetti for Marge
o child’s ravioli for me
o one can of root beer to be split upon arrival of the
o large pepperoni and mushroom pizza
o and several to-go boxes.
Our dinner conversation ranged from living in Hawaii when she was 26, to seeing “Frank” in concert, to U.S. Savings Bonds. After dinner we continued our talks during aimless driving, making sure to leave our carbon footprints on the Earth’s face. We coasted around the cemetery, reading gravestones and imagining their stories.
The years have gone by. Christine has finished college and is now a married woman. The pizza maker has cut off his ponytail and now slaps dough next to his son. The Oldsmobile has been replaced by a Honda Civic. For her 88th birthday, Marge gave into a cane. Because of her bad eyes, I drive now.
I watch in admiration how Marge adjusts to Time’s damage and finds delight and humor in what life still offers. I know bigger changes are in store for both us, and some of these I dread, but for now when we’re at our pizza place, we eat on, boats against the current...