Thursday, March 26, 2009

1 We Weren't Born To Follow

I was born at a very young age. At least, that is what people tell me; I don't really remember. I was born 8/8/80. I wanted to be born in 88 to make it complete but my mother didn't want to wait. It's not that I don't have a cool birthday. It just could have been cooler. Even at birth I was always aiming high.
I must confess that I am a bastard. My parents were never married. Well, I guess technically they were, just not to each other. My mother was a young divorcee with a 6 year old son seeing a man who at the time had 3 daughters but no sons. They had been childhood friends and now were busy conceiving me. Well, I guess conceiving me wasn't the goal but you know what they say about the best laid plans (pun intended). My mother actually did not tell my father she was pregnant and disappeared out of his life. I grew up without knowing who my father was. (Actually, for those who use these self descriptive episodes for psychoanalysis, this is my first real bad memory: my brother's dad, my mom's first husband, would come to visit him and I would go outside to say hi thinking he was my dad. Well, he knew I wasn't and did not engage me and I wondered why my father didn't love me. Fill in your oh that explains why Iram does this here)
I was born in Mexico which frankly makes me embarrassed to be writing all of this in English. But while I speak Spanish and my heart beats in it, my education has been in English and my mind betrays my heart. I was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Like New York, a city so nice, they named it twice. I grew up poor, I guess. Funny thing though, I never realized it until I stopped being poor.
Like most children, I imagine my memories are fleeting and sporadic (which is a warning that this first chapter will be a great stream of consciousness; actually while we're in warnings, all of it will be stream of consciousness). I apparently was a charming child. My grandmother and other older ladies from the neighborhood always tell stories about my charisma even as a kid (like the time I had potato chips and after one round of sharing with them, I declared "why should I keep giving them chips; I'll run out and they'll get fat; or the time when I was hemorrhaging from my nose and while everyone else was worried piously spoke up and said, "don't worry, Jesus will get the pipes to stop flowing"). I had a big head (literally speaking, arrogance would come later) and apparently when I was learning to walk I would fall because my head was too big and would get swells…my grandmother tells this story and can't stop laughing as she tells it. I still have bumps as my forehead seems to have horns or at least my brain seems to be pushing its way out.
My mom was a single mom. We lived with my grandparents at 358 Martirez Agradista, Colonia Villa Nueva. It was a complex on a corner in a typical Mexican neighborhood. Quite an extended family living there. While I lived there, there were as many as six of my grandparents' twelve kids and fifteen of their grandkids living there. I don't remember once in my childhood ever being alone.
I was an extremely religious kid. We went to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I always studied my church lesson and memorized the weekly verse without any prompting. I enjoyed it. Very early on I was involved in any program to be upfront. In fact when I was six years old I declared I wanted to be a pastor. I held on to that dream for almost 20 years. I was sure the call of God was in my life. I don't know if that was true or the fact that I am a ham led me to always want to be upfront and the church was the venue of choice in my upbringing.
I was always nerdy. I liked learning. I learned to read and do basic arithmetic before I ever went to school. I was always running my own experiments. The world was such a big place and I wanted to absorb it all as quickly as possible. My family invented a game to send me away once they were weary of my questions but overall they had great patience. School was the place where my ego was blown up. It didn't take long to discover that not only was I brighter than most people, those who were as bright as me didn't process things as quickly. I was labeled as having great promise and I believed it. There was an opportunity early on to skip a grade. My mom left it up to me. I didn't want to leave my friends. I still don't know if that was a mistake.
This is mostly because I don't know if I have ever had friends. I have had problems with attachment. I seem to not really know how to do it. Even as a child, it seemed to me there were lots of people who had lots of affection for me and I didn't know why I didn't feel it back. I learned early on to pretend. I sometimes wonder if this is universal but I've learned to accept that's unlikely. And yet I always want to be surrounded by people. I'm the loneliest friendly person you're ever likely to meet.
I was never drawn to sports. I liked them but no more than reading, no less either. This has, I've discovered, been a huge problem in my life. I never had anything consume my interest, instill my passion to pursue diligently. Except for religion, God. This however may well be due to my mother's intense piety as a guilt reaction to poor choices she had made. Or because religion is just the end all be all. I mean both of those options fullheartedly.
Honestly, very few things stick out to me in my time in Mexico. They are just moments grabbing my attention. I had a dead dog once; I think someone shot it. I remember being happy after leaving the dentists office because I was going to get an icepop. I remember one Christmas where I really got what I wanted; a He-man doll which I lost the next day. I remember piƱatas, candy, games, tortillas with salt, a huge boulder in my grandfather's house. I started a couch on fire because I was playing with matches and was trying to cover it up by throwing a lit newspaper under a couch. I think I don't remember more because I don't speak in Spanish enough and the memories must be connected.
The big moments were my great grandparents and grandparents. They were always sages, dispensing jokes or wisdom but always coming across with gravitas. They were bigger than life, they were simple men with big hearts, sharp wits and a wealth of experience that was deeply carved into their faces.
I know now that life was hard then, that my mother struggled, that my brother was growing angry and bitter. I know now that there was and is some serious tension in my family. I never even noticed that then.
But I will say this for growing up in Mexico in the Adventist church. They were conservative and straight forward. For all their faults and which ones they embraced secretly, there was something strangely comforting about this world of black and white, of right and wrong. Cards, dancing, swearing, movie theaters: these were cardinal sins. I was committed to never breaking any of them.

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