Jennifer Pattison Rumford
I might have been born in the blackest part of the night in a train car rattling across the Sierra Madre Occidental. The night was like a tunnel around the train, the train moving through the night or the night rushing past the train.
The mathematics of the human body defied my mother, she, who found all logic in numbers on a page. It was evident to her that she was going to have her baby on the train. She was alone and without companion, but for an ancient Mexican woman, swathed in the coarse black rebozo of widowhood.
The old woman was not happy. She made it clear that my mother must wait, she must do anything possible to have the baby after the train reached the next town.
"A baby born on a train is born restless," she muttered, or so my mother, with her classroom knowledge of classical Spanish translated.
Regardless of my impatience, she held my mother's hand throughout the ordeal, and was the first human to touch my blood-wet skin. The birth was easy; the women delighted. It might have been three generations meeting for the first time.
Perhaps it was the crushed herbs the old woman fed my mother from beneath her desert-dusty, black wrappings, but when she told me the story it was not quite clear in her mind...the train, the high desert sky ablaze with the cold light of ancient stars, the old, old woman, and the warning.
The train was only a foreshadowing of the vagabond life to come for me. I spent the early part of my life trailing along in the wake of my father's quest, a geologist following the precious metal trail. My mother did not look up from her calculations to realize that as he searched the arid canyons of exotic lands, I was surrounded by an addictive influence I would never recover from.
How could they guess, even suspect that the arroyos and plateaus told me secrets that had nothing to do with soil tests and lab reports? All their lives they looked at me and wondered what had happened; how could any child of theirs spring so far from the technical and scientific?
What did they expect of a child born to be restless, a child whose feet could never be tied to the earth?