I woke up crying this morning for no reason.
Then I remembered the reason.
Yesterday I felt like making pizza. When my brother and sister asked what they could bring over, I gave them a list of ingredients.
They brought my parents and they sat in the backyard while I started a fire in our wood-burning oven.
Then I got it.
I understood why I wanted to make pizza.
The oven was a gift from Kim. She was so sick of me looking at it online and then deciding it was too expensive that she bought it for me.
“We have the money,” she said.
“Yes, but we don’t really need it,” I said.
“We’ll both benefit from it. You’ll cook on it, I’ll eat what you cook.”
“I just don’t think I’ll use it enough.”
We had this conversation so many times that she decided to buy it without telling me.
She gave it to me for the first Father’s day after Elena died. She printed out the web page and told me when it would be delivered.”
“Thank you,” I said. And then, because I’m an idiot, “do you think I should cancel it? We don’t really need it.”
“It’s not from me,” she smiled. “It’s from Tara.”
Like a black lab has a credit card and could order off the internet.
“Thank you,” I said again.
She gestured at the dog.
“Sorry,” I said and addressing Tara said, “thanks puppy.”
Tara would die three months later.
I placed another log on the fire yesterday and remembered Tara, Elena, and Kim – the three reasons I had this oven.
“Do you think you should?” Maggie had asked. “Don’t burn them.”
She’s right. The last couple of times I had rushed the process and needed too big a fire because the stones weren’t hot enough and I had burned the sides of the pizza while undercooking the bottom.
I decided to treat the fire like Kim would.
Start it hours ahead and just take your time. Talk to the people around you. Focus on the moment. What’s the rush? Why hurry?
So I continued the fire for several hours then brushed the embers to the side and cooked nine small pizzas.
Kimmy – they came out perfectly. You would have liked them.
I know you ate them burnt and said, “What’s the big deal. They aren’t that burnt. They’re fine.”
But they weren’t fine. They were burnt.
Yesterday, they were perfect. Kim, you would have eaten them and tipped your head back to look at me.
“These are good,” you’d say, “Not like the usual. Usually, you burn the hell out of them.”