The month of March in our family is known as March Madness for the multiple birthdays. Luke kicks off the month the 10th, then Grammie on the 20th, Wyatt is the 25th, and I bring things to a close on the 28th. I’m 48 this year. No need for mystery. I love growing older. A friend recently referred to our family’s Birthday Gauntlet, which I loved and is a perfect description!
Mom, Dad, and Wyatt all came for our tradition Birthday Party (all thrown into one lump day), which included an ecumenical walk around the Plaza for Palm Sunday.
Dad hauled a pickup, El Blanco, that has been in our family since 1984 and the Cascabel Years. It has been a ranch truck all the past years. With all of the garden work and hauling we’re doing in our new home—and for unabashedly sentimental reasons—I wanted El Blanco in Santa Fe. Dad hauled it down. As most trips involving my dad and vehicles, this one also included an adventure. His pickup and the trailer hit black ice in Colorado, the trailer jack-knifed and his F350 pickup and trailer all plowed for several hundred yards down the interstate. Spinning the steering wheel back-and-forth throughout, Dad kept all tonnage hurtling down the interstate on the road. Somehow, no one was hurt and the truck and trailer didn’t flip. He was pulled over by an officer several miles later for “losing control of his vehicle.”
“If I hadn’t kept control of the vehicle,” Dad told the officer, “I’d have been in a ditch back there!”
What Daddy didn’t tell me was that he’d had new magnetic signs made for the side of El Blanco, exactly like what had been painted on there 30 years ago.When I saw, it hit the Cascabel Button and immediate tears.
Wyatt and Wynn helped unload.
A 30-year old ranch pickup from Cascabel? I am soooooo ditching our mini-van!
I have had exactly one kind of birthday cake in my life that I remember—the Cascabel Birthday Cake. Cascabel (‘rattle of a rattlesnake’ in Spanish) is the area in southeastern Arizona nestled within the San Pedro River Valley where I grew up. We’ll refer to it as The Holy Land. The sandstone bluffs overlooking the river of Cascabel framed the valley and framed my childhood. These bluffs, these years, these memories, and this cake are inextricable intertwined.
Mom said that original recipe was in some a magazine long lost to memory. In our March Madness of birthdays, this cake is sort of the grand finale of fireworks for me. The rest of birthday rhythms can be consumed by the waters of life—but the cake, the Cascabel Cake, we do not miss. Traditions ground us in the whirlwinds of life. This cake remains one of my own anchors.
Always the same cake: Angel Food cake with the topping of a mixture of whipped cream, crushed pineapple, and lemon Jello. Always cut into thirds with layers of the topping amidst. Whip the jello, so all blends together. Essential to the Cascabel Birthday Cake are the purple irises atop. Purple irises ringed two of the trees in front of the ranch house in Cascabel. They always bloomed right before my birthday. Mom always decorated my cake with them. Yes, bulbs for purple irises will be planted in the gardens of our new home.
Mom’s birthday this year was an especially poignant one for all. Ten years ago on her birthday, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five years ago, Noé and I walked the Pilgrimage to Chimayó to celebrate her five years as a survivor. This March 20th, she celebrated her 10 years as a survivor. Mom writes of this beautifully here: Joan Wink – 10 Years Cancer Free. My Uncle Jim surprised us all with this photo of her taken when she was four-years-old.
My mom and dad, my heroes. Always and forever.
With the passing of the incredible Cara Esquivel, all feels especially vulnerable and tender. In the midst of these national and international times so filled with so very much tragedy, the events in Brussels and conversations and happenings impossible to understand, a tiny group of people who loved Cara have come together around her passions and fierce love of Oaxaca and the the world. These past weeks, amidst all, I’ve experienced the very best of this tiny circle of people giving all to bring beauty to the world, out of love, out of passion, and out of loyalty. This experience again and again reminds me of what really matters in this world. What a blessing to experience the very best of humanity.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead