“He has always taken me out. That was one of the things I liked about him right away. He loved to go out. Didn’t matter what day it was — we’d go out.”
They’ve been married for 53 years and tonight, she tells me, they’re going to Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen on Federal Hill to celebrate year 54. The Old Canteen has about 10 years on them, but both are holding up pretty well. She asks me if I know what kind of gift she should be getting for her anniversary, and I tell her that I have to look it up. After a quick Google search, I found out that it’s supposed to be glass.
“My father, God rest his soul, he got my mother the most beautiful glass ornament you’d ever seen one year for Christmas. It was an oval and it had all the kids’ names on it — me, my brother, and my two sisters. My mother cherished it. When she died, none of us wanted it, the ornament, because just looking at it made us cry. I think my niece took it. You want to keep some things, because they make you happy, but other things make you cry, and you can’t have them around. That’s just how it goes.”
I ask her where they went on their first date.
“That would be a good story if I could remember it. You think I remember that far back? I dated a lot of boys back then. I wasn’t a bad girl, but I wasn’t a shy girl either. If I liked a boy, I told him so, and we’d go out. My mother would get so mad. She’d call me every bad word in the book, but I liked boys and I wasn’t going to say sorry about it. If people talk, let them talk. My father was in my corner, believe it or not. He said, ‘If they give you trouble, you know where to kick ‘em.’ I had to kick a few of them, but not many. If you kick one, they tell their friends, and everybody leaves you alone.”
When I tell her that I’m trying to write a nice piece about an older couple who still makes time to go out on the town and not about a reformed bad girl, she laughs at me.
“We go out, but then we come home. But we do like to go out. But we like coming home better. That’s why we’ve been married for so long. I like coming home with him. To him is another thing, you know, because when I come home I like it quiet and he’s always listening to the radio and he can’t hear a damn thing so he’s got it up so loud I have to tell him the neighbors can hear it, but he doesn’t care. That’s how come he’s like me, because he doesn’t care who minds him. He makes me mad, and I make him mad, and my brother used to say, ‘You’re mad about each other and mad at each other all the time.’ That’s why it works I guess. Fifty-four years. You know how many men I could have had in 54 years? But he kept it interesting for the both of us. We’ve been all over. You don’t even know. One time we got in the car and — this was when we were a lot younger — we drove all the way to visit our friends in Bowling Green just because we had the weekend to do it. He’s no wild man, but he keeps it fun, I have to give him that.”
They’re not making any big road trips these days, but they do like a late-night stop to Twin River or to get breakfast when neither of them can sleep.
“The money we spend going to these places late at night just so we can have some eggs is a sin. If my mother were alive to see me spending money on eggs when I have two dozen in the fridge at home — but it’s fun to have somebody else do it for you. We love it. We love to see how late we can stay out. It’s how you stay young. I believe that. We find all these little diners that stay open late on a Friday or Saturday and we sit with the kids who are all coming back from dancing or having fun and they love to see us. Some of them talk to us and ask us what we’re doing out so late. I look at them and I think, ‘What are you doing out so late? You look like you’re 10 years old.’ But they’re not, you know, they just look it. Everybody looks young to me these days.”
She tells me she has to go get ready for dinner tonight. I tell her to call me back and let me know what her anniversary present was. A few hours later, my phone rings with an answer. He bought her diamond earrings. I tell her that you’re not supposed to get diamonds until your 60th anniversary.
“Yeah, but who knows if we’ll live that long? I’ll take my diamonds now. Isn’t that what they say about flowers? Don’t give ‘em to me after I’m dead, give ‘em to me now? That’s me with diamonds. Every year from now on can be a diamond year.”