(I’m taking liberties here, since when I was little, my favorite meal wasn’t at a restaurant… we lived in small places that didn’t even have a lot of restaurants until I was about twelve. I guess I could put KFC—there was one up in La Ronge—but, eh. I had a more beloved meal than that.)
The transition comes without me even realizing it. Suddenly I’m in a kitchen. I… don’t really recognize it. It must be the trailer, back in Truro?
“Are you done?” I hear my dad say, down the hall. Man, I recognize that question, and the slight tinge of frustration.
“Nope!” I hear a little… I hear myself reply. I sound so much like my son does, it makes my breath catch in my throat.
Well, that buys a little time, I think, when the aroma hits me. There’s… a pizza baking here. The smell summons up vivid memories—memories that have flickered through my mind a few times in the past couple of years—of making pizza with my dad.
I peek into the oven, wondering whether this is the day I was remembering. I’d thought it was a conglomeration of memories fused together, snippets sewn into a single piece to form a composite memory, but… I don’t think so. Something about the light, about the smell of the pizza baking in the oven.
I’ve tried to many times to make some that tasted like it, but there’s always something missing. I search the counter for the box, and find it:
I grab the box, reading the ingredients carefully, wondering whether I might run across whatever little detail it is that left such a deep impression on me.
“Done yet?” my dad repeats, down the hall. That’s when I notice the other pizza on the coffee table, cut into slices. This is the second one they’re baking. I can…
“Okay,” my dad says, just as little me flushes the toilet. “I’ll come help you.”
I rush over, certain I’m going to run out of time, and grab a still-warm slice. I bit into it, and when I taste it… man, it’s… it’s exactly how I remember it. Astonishingly so. And yet… my palate isn’t the same. The pizzas I make at home now are better, in a lot of ways. But as I taste it, a rush of memories hit me. My dad—as he almost certainly was doing twenty minutes ago—talking to me about the steps to follow, telling me I did a good job, patting me on the back. Making pizza together… it’s something simple and perfect from when I was little, and he was my Dad.
There’s a paper on the coffee table, and a blue ballpoint pen, so I scribble a note to my Dad:
I’ve tried to recreate this.
What was missing? I was making it without you.
Thanks, Dad. I love you.
I manage to take another bite and then, as I’m chewing and thinking about whether I should really leave this note here—won’t he think he’s losing his mind?—I when I am yanked out of this moment. No, I think, let me finish the…
But then I realize, that bite of pizza is still in my mouth. I chew it, watching the room for a moment from outside of time as little me leads the way, my dad following him, toward their unfinished meal. My dad doesn’t seem to notice the note at first, but then he looks at it and narrows his eyes, just as I am flung across not-time toward some other moment, elsewhere, elsewhen.
Tumbling away from that moment, I brace for some rush of new memories, but nothing’s changed. Did he assume it’d been in the kit box? Or… that he was just seeing things? I don’t know, but… then I remember certain things he used to say, things he said from time to time that made no sense to me until now.
If only I could have been there a little bit longer… I think, though I know it would have been to strange for him, seeing an unfamiliar middle-aged man in his living room.