I was conceived on a trip between a provincial town and the capital city; 60 years ago. Indeed, my parents were traveling first class on a night train, enjoying themselves in the privacy (and quality) I am told, of a sleeping coach + the prompt and discreet room service, courtesy of our (then) national railways. This may explain my fascination with trains of all kinds. It all happened sometime in 1954; a year or so later, I was born. Memory is a fragile now, but I believe my parents were elated; they certainly got value for their pleasure – sure, there is no ideal site for conception but in the universe of the time, a train coach was as good a place as any. Papa was a travelling salesman, or so the story goes; Mama, a well-trained and loving housewife – their orbit deeply interwoven, imprinting their son with a strong genetic code usable at the time of his own calling.

In the capital city, my parents circulated freely and blended well; unhampered by certain conventions of that era. For instance, they were not married, nor officially engaged, nor facing a perpetual crisis of morality in an eminently Catholic land. For what I can deduce looking in the rear mirror, there was an ongoing complicity among their friends, acquaintances and some “key” relatives on both sides. Which was most suitable for a little creature called Leonardo, ensuring not only his safety and endurance, but a reasonable bright future – in a way, it was, as a loving untie told me in my teens a “perfect birth of pure love” – poetically speaking. Of course all families have a range of mythologies; fairy-tales so deeply engrained in their memories and historical language in ways that defy reason – mine was not different. Revelations and facts would come later; much later.

I remember Mama telling me as a grew older, that while the perpetuation of the species was not exactly on their minds during their many escapades to the capital – her pregnancy was a biological fact that eventually was bound to happen; passions unleashed, an incandescent love of mutual acceleration; the rule of abstinence and propriety was simply laughable. Son, she said once, the universe was unfolding indelibly. Mama was joyful with my birth; for her, becoming a mother made her no longer invisible. Dad told me many moons later that he was proud of me; I appreciated hearing that. For many years I believed he held some obscure resentment with my existence – receiving his blessings, notwithstanding sparingly, was life-reaffirming; I could circulate publically on my way to become human.

Common-law was not exactly a well-defined cultural statute in my country of birth in those years; but my parents were not bound by the morality of neither church or state – as for the law, they couldn’t care less – well, for a time. There were other conventions at play; certain “values” guiding what was acceptable, or censurable. They were brave my parents – they defied the “norms” and created for a period of time their own “accommodation” of sorts. During his many memorable visits to the capital, dad was a remarkable gentleman; full of praise, kindness, support, sincere encouragement – mama took it all for what it was worth – and if my fragile memory serves me well, enjoyed a good life during their long relationship.

Son, she would confide in my adulthood, your dad and I had many insightful moment; passionate lovemaking journeys, splendid trips to the ocean, delightful storytelling and poetry running though the sheets. Which explain why mama had a large collection of Neruda’s works in her bedroom; “You father was a great lover,” she said to me on another occasion; you know, she would reveal, our preludes always included savouring a sweet Merlot, Charles Aznavour romancing us in the background, intensely embracing ourselves before surrounding our love to the judgement of our own God.

I must say feeling deeply moved by mom’s narrative; more so, when my dad in one of my last visit to my country of origin in the early 90’s, corroborated it word for word; son, he will say, play me a song of love and I’ll tell you a story – it was as if we were devolving one another a long hidden artificial “secret” from the provenance of the “illicit” which both wanted it to illuminate forever. God was on our side my beloved son; the universe beating with its own motion – know that I am glad you’re here.

I was remembering this whole story a while back during a day of irrationality; failings, self-pity, nihilism and the desire to disappear in a rather unsophisticated way. Fortunately sanity prevailed, and the gentle voice of my now deceased parents restored a refreshed mythology of pure love, unjudged, unrepentant. Romanticism was still pulsing in my veins; no evil dogmas dragging me into the abysm – I heard a dear friend saying … “you can be kinder, gentler, not only to others, but to yourself too.”

Later that day, my friend and I took a walk in the river valley – one of my “third places” of comfort and solace if you must know. You know, I said to her, I was conceived on a trip between a provincial town and the capital city; over 60 years ago. I have been in this land for more than half of my adult life now. It’s good to have a friend who is a great listener; indeed, my friend and I were both born in distant homelands and with unique rearranged memories. Her company was sweet, her presence in my life deeply valued; as we continued our demarche, in slow motion I looked up the clear skies above – miraculously, I felt my parents’ blessings once again, and Aznavour’s La Boheme playing in my ears.

© Leo Campos Aldunez

Edmonton, AB (Canada)

Music: Maxime Le Forestier

Né Quelque Part © 1988

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