My mother and my father met in Mexico. He could have been Mexican, being dark-skinned and black-haired, but he was not. He was a suave American with native American filling out a quarter or an eighth of his blood — I forget which, remember only that he lived on the wild side, spoke Spanish and wooed my mother under the big shadowy moon.
She was in Mexico with her mother for the winter break, their annual trip. She was 21, and she had grown thin and elegant after a chubby adolescence. I imagine her, her life a desert right then. She had taken some classes at a junior college, and she was a model, and she was just waiting for the right man, because that’s what girls did in those days. She had learned how to care for a man, how to be wily and sweet, how to be not too smart, but cultured. None of it really fit her. Her older sister, a ballerina, artist, musician, and beautiful too throughout those awkward adolescent years, took all the awards for grace and poise. My mother learned to repress the wildness that got her kicked out of three schools; she learned to walk with a book on her head, and to nod, and to smile demurely. But my father walked up to her one night in Mexico, and held out his hand, and she went with him.
They fled to the Northwest. They made wild love in the trees and on the beach. They found a church, a little white church in a little water-front town. They got married there, when I was already splitting and turning inside her, growing fingernails, my heart beating. But it was 1964 by then, and spring winds blew down the coastline, shook their little wooden house up on its pilings above the heartbeat of the tide.
1963 is the year she turned her back on her family, on her alcoholic mother and the ghost of her dead father, on all the elegance of high society into which she had been born. 1963 is the year she chose my biological father, the acid-popping, drug-running, Timothy Leary-adoring hippie with the wet black eyes and the quick hands. It is the year of the confluences, when my life became a possibility, a time of hearsay, before I was there to bear witness.