It was born of desperation. My husband and I had two children under the age of 2, and I was so exhausted, I couldn’t see straight. As a mother at home, it was not uncommon for me to work 100 hours in a week. Peter often joked that he went to work to get some rest.
One day, I reached my limit. "Peter," I pleaded during a rare moment of quiet, "I need one night a week when I don’t have to cook dinner. I don’t care if we have Wheaties for dinner; I just need a night off."
Peter completely understood. "What do you think about sending out for pizza on Friday nights?" he proposed. The idea sounded wonderful, and so we began.
I lasted three weeks.
I am extremely thrifty, so the thought of paying someone else to cook and deliver my dinner at an exorbitant price seemed downright immoral.
It occurred to me that we had friends who made their own pizza, so I began picking their brains and fiddling with recipes. I searched out suppliers for mozzarella, tried pizza stones, experimented with toppings. It didn’t take long for me to create a decent homemade pizza.
Call me slow, but it was six months before it dawned on me: "Wait a minute. The whole reason we’re having pizza on Friday nights is so I don’t have to cook."
But it was too late; we were hooked on our homemade pizza. None of us wanted to give it up.
Thus was born a tradition. Our typical pizza includes sourdough crust, homemade sauce with tomatoes from South Glastonbury farms, and an assortment of toppings including grilled hamburger, toasted garlic and homemade pesto. I cook in bulk and freeze all but the dough.
Half a dozen years passed. In an extraordinary turn of events one summer, I found myself in the Intensive Care Unit of St. Francis Hospital, battling a catastrophic illness. When I returned home, I was confined to bed for several months. Our parents generously cared for our four small children during the early weeks. After that, the families pitched in to hire live-in help for a month and a half.
On our caregiver’s final day, Peter asked if she would create homemade pizza for us. Later, after a grateful good-bye, Peter fed the kids an early dinner and put them to bed. In the quiet of the evening, he and I sat down for the first homemade pizza since the crisis began.
But instead of eating, we just sat there and wept. The previous months had been such a dark time. My illness had dragged me to the brink of death, then saddled me with a grueling recovery. Peter was having nightmares. Yet there we were, staring at homemade pizza, which was our beacon of normalcy. After months that had been anything but normal, we were glimpsing the delicious ordinariness of life. We hadn’t realized how much we’d missed it.
Peter and I sat together that evening and poured out our gratitude to God. We prayed that God would help us cling to this thankfulness, that it not be washed away in the frazzle of life. We wanted to remember the sweetness of each day. We wanted to remain grateful.
Twenty years have passed, and hardly a Friday night goes by that I do not whisper that same prayer of thankfulness to God. Hardships abound, but God’s bounty abounds all the more.
And to think that all this gratitude arose from a weary young mom who needed a break from cooking.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.