Feb 16, 2007

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


  1. Happy Birthday, Mom!

  2. I should have taken up a collection and bought her one of those laser keyboard deelies. She loves tech...

  3. Anonymous7:20 PM

    Your mamma is so pretty! Smart too. Wow.

  4. Do you think those laser keyboard deelies come in Chenille Minky Green? Any stylish mom would love that, I think.

  5. Non-milf: thanks for keeping it clean. She is gorgeous, but she's MY MOM. Respect is due...

  6. DB: the keyboards are only in evil-Jedi laser-red at the moment, I think.

    But we can live in hope...


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