MAGIC, A LITTLE KINDNESS
FOUNTAIN HILLS, Arizona "Let's go down by the grapevine, drink my daddy's wine, get happy." Mamma likes to sing Laura Nyro, while browning taco meat in her turquoise kitchen.
"And when I die. And when I'm dead, dead and gone. There'll be one child born in a world to carry on, to carry on," my voice joins hers, as I chop tomatoes and shred cilantro leaves.
Then we discuss the link between prodigies and tumors (which felled the singer-songwriter at 49). We always do.
My mother manages four cancer-care departments at a Phoenix hospital. Underage patients celebrate each treatment with a toy from the trunk her innovation. And upon request, she'll ink a splashy fake tattoo over the real ones that direct the radiation beam.
Ellen Castleman is something of a legend in her field. I am so d@mn proud.
But at home, she's my tiny mamma. A baker of ancestral focaccia. A hiker with hilariously weak ankles. An artist and singer and prankster, who began short-sheeting my bed before I was long enough to hit the fold.
"Only five feet tall, but she lives like a giant," I once observed in The Guardian.
Today is her birthday. And I should be there, swatted as I steal cheese from the grater.
Except I'm 1,115 miles away: a far-flung electron of this nuclear family.
My father's thrown a humdinger of a party, complete with sisters, a niece and Grammy, imported from various corners of America.
Tacos probably aren't on the menu. Don't ask, don't tell.
Instead I dream our voices twining together:
There'll be lots of
time and wine
Red yellow honey
Sassafras and moonshine