My mother’s pizza
was always my birthday dinner,
desert island food.
I loved watching her make the dough,
trusting her hands to know what to do.
She could throw it high into the sky
like the best pizzaiolos,
but once when I was young, she missed,
the dough landing neatly on my head.
A family joke for years on end.
She made pizza as an act of love,
but also for the space it gave her
for her own joy to grow,
doubling in size along with the dough.
As she grew into her nineties,
as arthritis wrecked her hands,
she made pizza less frequently.
Still for my birthday, still for her pleasure.
Eventually, though, she just stopped.
It was not something we talked about,
a sadness we dared not name.
In my grief, I gave up gluten.
Pizza would never be the same.