I remember one time years ago Libby and I went out for pizza. Well, actually we stopped for pizza on what Libby would later refer to as our first date. I would recall it as an epiphany. I had picked her up at her parents’ house in Central New York and was taking her to my house in New Jersey to visit for a week. We stopped at a Pudgie’s Pizza in Cortland, New York to get something to eat and take our first (of millions) road trip bathroom break.
Now here is a good example of something I didn’t expect. You see I’ve got a conqueror mentality with a traverse Texas sized bladder. Any car ride longer the 20 mins is a trip. Trips mean you get in the car, drive, get to destination, get out, stretch, get on with life. To Libby the trip is an adventure peppered liberally with potty breaks. You see what the problem might be here ?
Back at Pudgies in our still fresh and new friendship we ate our pizza in relative silence. You know, bite, chew, “nice place”, bite, chew “uhh huh”, bite, chew, silence. In my head I was wondering 2 things;
1) Why such a beautiful young woman would be the least bit interested in me ?
2) Was she now wondering the exact same thing.
It was quiet, too quiet. Tell a joke, make her laugh, win her heart with your jocularity. I excused myself and wandered up to the counter and asked for a small cup of water and went back and sat down. I casually sipped the water till I drained the cup to about 6 of it’s original 12 oz’s whereupon I said “knock, knock” ? “Who’s there?” Libby chimed back with a smile, no doubt thankful for any reason for conversation. “John” I said. The smile withered a little as she probably thought the joke was going to end there, my name being Jon and all. “John who?” she offered. “John the Baptist” I said as I tossed the remaining contents of the cup of water into her smiling face. The unexpected turn of events brought a looping slideshow of confusion, fear, and astonishment to her face that slowly was replaced with a wry smile and a “you jerk” look. I can’t tell you why I did it but it proved to me that the wonderful women in front of me could take a joke and it also let her know to expect anything if she was going to hang around with me.
Like it or not we bring expectations of behavior into every relationship. Spouses, bosses, friends, dogs. Oh yes, we have expectations for our pets as well. The saddest one happens when we are a child and we expect they’ll live forever. It’s hard to know how our life partner will react to any given deviance from expected behavior. We simply have to learn as we go. Flexibility is the key and keeping score is fatal. Of course some things are easy to let go, others are harder. Here are two examples of unknowns that as we looked back on them we laugh, but at the time we discovered and dealt with them, not so much.
Hot Food & Christmas – I grew up in a house where food was served hot and Christmas dinner was a sit down event where there were traditional foods served every year. Swedish Meatballs, Indian Corn Pudding, Green Bean Casseroleâ€¦… Okay. So the first Christmas at the future in-laws. Good food but stuff like cold-cuts, macaroni salad and such. It was not the smorgasbord of gastronomic delight I was used to and it certainly wasn’t hot. I found myself wondering if I could rummage through the fridge looking for some leftovers I could heat up in the microwave ? Would that be rude? Apparently it is…. arrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh
Milk and Cookies & Christmas – Our very first Christmas with kids old enough to understand stuff had finally come. Libby patiently waited for me gather the kids right before bed time and go to the fridge get some milk, grab some cookies from the cookie jar and make a production out of Milk and Cookies for Santa, just like her father had done for her every year as a child. She waited and waited, finally I guess she gave up and got out some cookies and put them on a plate on the kitchen counter along with a glass of milk and went off to round up Josh and Cara and maybe Kailyn if she had been born by then. As Libby re-entered the kitchen I was just lifting the last bite of a home made butter cookie toward my mouth and reaching for the glass of milk.
Finally the title story. I bet you never thought we’d get here. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, the land of pizza parlors and Greek diners. Thin crust pizza from the Caldwell Pizzeria on Bloomfield Ave was the best pizza ever. The establishment was also the most austere place I’ve ever seen. It had; a pizza oven, a sink, a fridge, a few cupboards and the marble counter top on which the master pizza man made the pizza. A single price sign adorned the wall just above a yellow (formerly white) rotary dial phone, that’s it. Oh, there was an exhaust fan. A fan that was missing at least one blade and maybe two, up on the wall near the ceiling that made a vain attempt to move the hot air out on July summer nights. I don’t remember if they made anything else, just the best pizza ever. Thin crust pizza, pizza meant to be folded while eaten. A few years into our relationship, neither Libby nor I remember the where of this but the what is engraved in the marblest part of her mind, we stopped for a slice somewhere. It was one of those days where we had $1.57 between the two of us. Libby was starving but I had been smart and already eaten something before we left. So we ponied up the only cash we had and bought her a slice. As is my custom when around pizza I nicely asked for a bite. Libby graciously complied so I folded the pizza in half and took what I thought was a reasonable bite and handed back the slice. See chapter title.