My daughter, Rachel, recently spent the weekend with me. Our schedules are pretty busy, and we don’t often have the opportunity to spend quality time together.

When I asked her what she wanted for dinner on Saturday night, she unhesitatingly and clearly said she would take care of it. Since she seemed so definite, I didn’t say another word and simply anticipated the surprise.

She arrived on Saturday with a shopping bag from Shaw’s and set her purchases on the counter. I smiled with delight as she produced a jar of spicy sauce, fresh mozzarella, a stick of pepperoni and a lump of refrigerated pizza dough.

“Of course,” I exclaimed. “Pizza!”

As Rachel preheated the oven and searched the cupboard for spices, I sipped my tea and watched her work her magic with the simple ingredients. We got talking about our hundreds of Saturday night pizzas.

When Rachel and her three sisters were growing up, Saturday night pizza was a family tradition carried with us through three states and looked forward to all week long. We kept this tradition even after moving to Maine and discovering the natives grew up on Saturday night hot dogs and beans.

A time for treats

Our past pizzas were major extravaganzas that turned our favorite day of the week into a party. In those wonderful, yet busy days when the girls were small, Saturday was not only pizza day, but our bread-making day. Before six loaves of bread were formed into loaves, a large blob of dough was set aside for the pizza crust and left to rise in a big blue and white bowl. In cold weather, its place was by the potbellied wood stove in the kitchen. In summer, it was left to rise in a sunny patch on the kitchen counter.

Later in the day, the entire family went to the Bowdoinham Country Store, just minutes away from our old cape. We trooped to the meat counter where Sue sliced a stick of pepperoni for us and wrapped up a pound of hamburger in crisp white paper. The girls then each chose a soda, this being the only day of the week they were allowed to have one. Stephanie preferred Dr. Pepper or Moxie; Katie always went for the black cherry; Shannon liked Orange Crush; and Rachel most often asked for strawberry pop.

Next was the pièce de résistance, candy bars for all. Marian Bagley or the longtime cashier, Ann, patiently waited for the girls to make their choices. (I was partial to Clark bars myself.) There was much lively conversation and teasing while our purchases, including a weekly Megabucks ticket, were rung up. What a lot of fun for under $10!

Back at home, their dad fried up the hamburger in a cast-iron skillet along with peppers, onions and mushrooms. The dough was spread on mammoth baking sheets, and then covered with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. While the “parents’ pizza” was “loaded,” the girls arranged pepperoni slices on “their” pizza.

So many aromas

During this flurry in the kitchen, our four daughters took their turns in the tub. In the bathroom directly off the kitchen, the older girls helped the younger ones with hair washing and extra scrubbing in preparation for church the following morning. The scent of Baby Magic lotion and Tame cream rinse mingled with pungent pepperoni and sautéed onions. In this house brimming with girls of various sizes, all was right with the world.

With everyone in their jammies, we enjoyed our supper in the living room, sitting in a circle around the big square coffee table. We watched “Star Search” and voted for our favorite performers, many of whom are famous celebrities today. We also waited to see if this was the night we were going to win the lottery.

Well, we never won Megabucks and yet nobody ever cared. We were already rich beyond measure. We had our fill of homemade pizza, swigged our sodas and crunched on candy bars. As Rachel and I agreed during our recent, quieter pizza night, those were precious times. We had everything we could possibly need. We were together.

Karen Carlton is a freelance writer living in West Bath, who is a regular contributor to this column. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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