Dad told me I was conceived on a cold February night in the
mountains in Mexico,
in a log cabin where the bathroom was outside in a tree. Not just a tree, but in a tree that overhung
a ravine. You walked up wobbly wooden
steps, entered the outhouse, flipped up the toilet lid and looked far down into
a shadowy gorge full of wild pigs. My
brother described more than once how much fun it made it going to the bathroom
— except for on cold windy nights, during which he would try to hold it until
morning. I could imagine taking your
life in your own hands just to go out there.
I never saw the place, though, so I don’t really know.
Always the entrepreneur, Dad built an entire city around his
lumber mill, but you couldn’t get there by car.
You either had to land at the airstrip he’d built, or you had to pack
everything in via burro. And that’s how
everything came in, one way or the other.
I never thought to ask how he got the lumber out. I wonder if he ever got that far, because I
came along and surprised them, and changed everyone’s plans.
Mom had my brother Hank nearly 14 years before and try as
they might, no other babies showed up (at least not alive, as I did hear
stories about a still born brother).
This far along in the game they’d given up on more children. So there they are in a remote mountain
village, living in a log cabin with an outhouse in a tree, and suddenly Mom is
getting morning sickness. She’s nearly
40 and freaking out. We can’t have a
baby out here! This isn’t going to work!
Dad bought a house on the American side of the border, in
the sleepy little town of Douglas, Arizona, and moved the
family unit in. I have pictures of the
place, just a house among houses plopped down on the dusty desert soil, no
picked fence, no lawn, nothing. Your
basic temporary housing. This is in
1960, so in the pictures you can see all the cool old 60’s furniture and
fixtures. I recognize clocks and lamps
that would go for a fortune on eBay.
They had a plan. Dad,
being an American, could not actually own the land he occupied down in Mexico. But if their unexpected windfall child, me, came into the world on Mexican soil,
I would be quite the resource. Graced
with dual citizenship I could own land, cheap land, remote but valuable land covered
by acre upon acre of prime lumber. No
longer would Dad have to split the profits with the land owners.
I’d like to say this is how I, as a baby, became a
multi-millionaire land mogul. The plan
called for Mom to be rushed across the border to a hospital mere blocks from
the house. But at the last minute, in
the onset of labor, Mom vetoed the idea, opting instead for the nearby hospital
on the States side.
At 5:20 A.M. on November 12th, 1960, I was born
at the Douglas Hospital,
in Cochise County, Arizona.
Dad was 40. Mom was 37. My brother was 13. I was zero.
Of course I don’t remember that. I got it from my birth certificate. However, only a few months later, I made my
I remember an unfamiliar ceiling with unfamiliar
shadows. Something felt different and
wrong. I was not where Mom usually put
me to sleep. I remember being unhappy
and so I struggled to find my way back to where I knew I should be, and
navigated a silver railing that, in retrospect, stood less than a foot tall, but
to me it seemed huge and thick. Don’t
remember if I crawled over that bar or slipped between it, but I made it out
and fell. A few moments of
weightlessness and then I met a hard linoleum floor with a loud smack and a lot
of stinging, and I lay there for a moment.
Stunned, I suppose, staring at a large round thing as big as my head,
which I now suppose was a wheel to a gurney.
And then gathering all the power my little lungs could muster, I began
Lights came on. My
mom screamed out my name in panic.
Rushing huge feet. Me being
picked up and held tightly.
That’s all I remember.
I once shared this with Mom, who was amazed that I had such
a vivid memory from so far back. She
knew exactly when it happened. She and I
were spending the night in the hospital because I had colic, and they’d put me
on this hospital bed thinking there could be no way an infant could get over
Another memory from babyhood is due to repetition. At home, in my crib, I would wake up in the
middle of the night and stare from between the bars at some strange object
outside the window. It was oblong and
looked like a flying saucer. It hovered
there, night after night, the bottom half of it bright and glaring. I suppose it was a street light.
My next and final memory from babyhood is when I stepped on
a scorpion. A toddler by this point, I
walked barefoot across our garage at night toward Dad who was saying goodbye to
visitors. All I remember is stepping on
something lumpy. From there it skips to
my parents holding me tight and Mom crying, and me crying, and they were
holding my whole leg in a big bucket of ice water. My brother once told me that stepping on the
scorpion wasn’t an accident, that I had actually yelled out “Bug!”
and ran over to deliberately stomp on it.
According to him, my only reaction to the sting was to say,
“Ouch!” It was Mom who,
realizing it had been a scorpion, broke out in hysterical panic. My brother told me I didn’t start crying
until they jammed my foot into the ice water.
To this day I have a huge fear of spiders and especially scorpions.
Ironic because I am a Scorpio, with my moon in Scorpio. I’m
like a double-whammy Scorpio. It’s
almost like it should mean something.