From here the story winds and follows the lines of Highway 101. I was gestating, churning like butter in her belly, waiting patiently. She, the girl named my mother, thumbed rides from Seattle to somewhere in California.
When I was young, bathed in the light of my grandparents HBO, watching 'St Helens', a movie loosely based on a cute old man that despite all warnings to evacuate the doomed mountain stayed in his little shack by the lake. My mother proclaimed she had stayed a spell on the mountain side with that very old man. Suddenly the movie was far more interesting, and when the volcano blew, ash and tangled mass of mountainside came crashing down around his little cabin and buring him while he sat quietly in his rocking chair, I could only think of my mother sitting on the porch with him covered in debris and smothered in ash. I cried, for him and for her, she stroked my long hair and assured me that she wasn't on the mountain when it blew and that it was just a movie. That said, My mother made her way south by way of St. Helens.
Somewhere else entirely, a question mark was forming in the mind of a man. It split and grew at the same rate as the unknown baby in the belly of my mother. He wondered if the summer of '74, he spent fishing in Alaska bore him more than a fisherman's heafty paycheck. That question mark would remain fused to the side of his right brain and ebb and swell again and again in the years that followed.
She crashed with family, she communed with long hairs and vagrants and eventually she turned north, but not home, to the far north.
About this time vice president Spiro Agnew cast the deciding vote in the tied senate and passed legislation that would lead to the construction of the Alaska Pipeline project. The 400 miles of 48 inch pipe that runs from Pruhdoe Bay to Valdez Alaska. Marked as the second Gold Rush, you could make $1500.00 a week, while the rest of the country was in recession. And, thanks to the affirmative action requirements built into the legislation it was the first time in feminist history that a woman could make as much as a man and was given equal opportunity to the wealth of jobs that were available from Valdez to Fairbanks.
I was born in Anchorage Alaska, January 23rd, 1975 at 2:43 pm. The temperature was deep below zero, and the spot marked father was left blank. The birth certificate doesn't state a weight or a length, and though these numbers would remain arbitrary for thirty five years, they are an important element in the mathematical equation counting forward in months that should add up to nine.
The birth of a slightly over seven pound girl left a newly turned 18 year old woman bleeding and close to death. The placenta didn't detach following the birth. There was blood, lots of blood. My grandmother came from Ketchikan, she stayed by her side and held me tightly until the fear of losing a daughter and gaining a child had cleared. All this is another part of an equation that counts back from January 23rd to the moment that he loved her and she got knocked up.
I was a healthy beautiful baby girl, born on the coldest month in Anchorage's recorded history. The Catherine was for my grandmother, Alexandria, my mothers best friend. McRoberts would be the only side of my family I would come to know, but, it was the initials, C.A.M. that led to the name I answer to. I'm sure there were mood altering substances involved in the creative brainstorming that brought C.A.M to Cameo, but the moment it was uttered it took and my unique moniker has been a driving factor in the unique nature of my being, the other, the woman named my mother.
We homesteaded in a cabin with no door and traveled by snow-machine. We were not rich and it was not easy. I imagine Jewel and her father were yodeling away in the cabin down yonder, I have no proof of this, but it was the same homestead at the same time.
My mother ran a back hoe, and worked in construction. She worked long hours and in tough climate. The ways she tells it I was nannied by the mammoth malamute but I'm sure there must have been people around because my uncle lived in Anchorage as well. He got shot in a bar brawl, when a drug deal went bad and has the scar to prove life in Alaska from '75 to '77 was reminiscent of the wild west, but with long-haired hippie construction workers and a bevy of illegal activities to spend money on.
We migrated farther north to Fairbanks, by now, my mother owned a white van where she fashioned a crib in the cargo area for me to sleep in. Once, when stopped by police and put in back of the car, she pleaded with him that her infant daughter was asleep in the van, and convinced the him to let her go. He obliged. She talked her way out of a ride in a cop car but also lifted a duffel bag of weed from the back of the car. Fairbanks in the 70's. Nothing like the shithole I would eventually attend college in 18 years later.
From Fairbanks we moved to Tok, I include this because 'Tok' makes my giggle, and, since I grew up around a lot of toking, it's been making me giggle for a long time.
Finally in '77 work was drying up and the cold was becoming too much. When you're 18 and responsible for the health and well being of a growing little girl, and you've filled you pockets working your ass off in sub- zero temperatures, in a work environment reminiscent of 'North Country' what do you do? You might just think about moving to a commune in Maui.
So, there we were in the jungle, making flower headdresses and bathing in the ocean. Livinging in grass huts running bare feet, and chasing insects the size of my fist. I'd scamper about with a little man named Brownie and eat passion fruit until my belly hurt. It was here that while playing in the surf I was taken to sea in an undertow, and my mother saved me, pulling my little body ashore and pumping seawater from my chest.
By now I was 4 years old. I was toe headed and blue eyed, I wore sundresses with bright pink hibiscus flowers stuck behind my ear. My favorite word was "Fantastic".
We returned to Alaska, the prodigal daughter and her beautiful bastard offspring.
This is where she met him. He had a motorcycle and a decent job, he had just returned from the navy and wanted to take his Harley, with her on the back, down the coast to San Diego. She thought that was cool and she married him. It was later that we found out that he was an asshole.