I never knew anybody quite like my mother: uneducated but smart, brassy but sweet and hardly what you’d expect in a minister’s wife. “A California wild hair,” she said when I was young, one of the few hints I ever got of her upbringing. If Momma talked about her past you learned to listen quick.
One story I remember turned out to be a lie, and one of plenty. She said right after my birth my name came to her out of thin air: Mercy Grace. I figured she was either overcome by the Holy Spirit or delirious. Neither was true, I found out much later, and neither explained the absence of a birth certificate, which I never bothered to ask about, enthralled as I was by the story of my own birth. My last name, Carsten, was The Reverend Thad Carsten’s, of course, the man I always pictured pacing outside the delivery room, and why wouldn’t I? He was the only father I ever knew. Continue reading