Biographical Non-Fiction posted September 17, 2015

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Thursday Night Pizza

Scenes from a Marriage: Vol. 2

by Mark Valentine

It’s the little things that make a relationship. Like many couples, Maggie and I were friends before we were married. We both worked in the same field (social work) and were on a couple of committees together. Little by little we got to know each other. We would occasionally go out for beers after a meeting. We’d talk about our jobs, the Cubs, and the books we were reading. We’d also commiserate about the state of our romantic relationships. She had been seeing a guy with commitment issues for several years, and I had been seeing a girl with sanity issues for roughly the same amount of time. When Maggie and Mr. Fear of Commitment finally broke up, it didn’t take me long to swoop in, and it didn’t take her ex long to realize the error of his ways. He proposed to her shortly after our first date. Though she had been wanting him to propose for a long time, she, for some reason, said no. Had he proposed a month earlier, my life might have been very different. Turns out, for once, I was in the right place at the right time.

Fast forward about twelve years. We’re married and have three kids. As an aside, here’s a tip for all you aspiring social workers out there – the key to being a social worker and having a decent standard of living is, and I can’t stress this strongly enough, do not marry another social worker. Having said that, I feel I should also point out that having a decent standard of living is overrated. Our financial situation being what it was (and still is), we didn’t indulge ourselves with many extravagances. Our one treat was a monthly outing to Roseangela’s, a pizza place on 95th Street. It was within walking distance so sometimes we would walk as a family, other times, Maggie and I would drive and the kids would race us there on foot. However we got there, the return trip was always the same; when we finished our pizza, the kids would walk home while Maggie and I stayed to finish our pitcher of beer and have some alone time. I’m sure the kids cherished their alone time as much as we cherished ours.

Let the wealthy have their fancy French restaurants – I’ll take pizza and beer and Roseangela’s any day of the week – but especially on Thursdays. That’s when Manny (may he rest in peace) played accordion. We’d listen to his music, drop some money in his hat, and play games (“Who Am I ?”, “I Spy”, “Password” and others) while waiting for our pizza. Family time at its best.

On this particular Thursday night… well first a little background. When my dad was ill, he and my mom stayed with us for a while. After he passed in 2009, my mom moved back to Florida freeing up a bedroom. We then converted our TV room into a bedroom allowing each of our three children to have their own room. Our youngest, David, decided that he wanted to decorate his room with a math and science theme. In addition to tacking up a couple of posters (Einstein, Pi to 50,000 digits), he thought it would be neat to stencil various equations on the wall. My repertoire of equations was rather limited, so I spent some time at work one day googling “math equations”. Turns out that one of the more famous math equations is Euler’s formula. It also turns out (as I learned upon further googling) that one of the leading scholars on all things Euler was (and is, I suppose) my wife’s old boyfriend. Small world.

Insecure type that I am, I couldn’t help but start making comparisons. Sure, I could do the NY Times Sunday Crossword with the best of them, but this guy’s a world-class scholar. I play a little guitar – he has a band. Our kids are smart, but how much smarter would they have been with this guy as their father? Maggie could be living in a nice old house on a cobblestone street in a college town, having dinner parties with charming, intelligent people, engaged in conversations that weren’t centered around Kerry Wood’s fastball. A night out would consist of sipping Cabernet at some amusing bistro, instead of swilling beer at some south side pizza joint. I spent the rest of that day pondering the “what-ifs”. It was a Thursday.

When I got home, I related the results of my google searches to Maggie. I couldn’t help but ask, “Why did you marry me?” Maggie answered that question the way she answers many of my questions, with “You’re an idiot”. End of discussion – time to go to Roseangela’s.

We got our usual booth. Manny was in good form. I put five bucks in his hat and requested “Peg O’ My Heart” – the song that gave Maggie her name (it was on the radio when my mother-in-law went into labor). We were in the midst of some family game. The kids were laughing, the beer was cold, the pizza was hot. All was right with the world. Another Thursday night at Roseangla’s – nothing special, and yet everything special. At some point, Maggie’s eyes caught mine and she said, “This is why I married you”.

There are graced moments in a marriage, in life. Moments when nothing spectacular happens, but the veils are lifted and you’re able to see the divine in the ordinary. That’s the real sacrament. The stuff that happens in the church on the day you exchange vows is just a ceremony.

It’s the little things that make a marriage.



Recently wrote a poem that remarked on the sacramental aspect of marriage. That reminded me of this piece that I posted a couple of years ago.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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