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This Day in My History


2000:
  Turn Around...Turn Around...
2001:  Suffering in Silence
2002:  Sue Barton, Ladadog and The Black
2003:  It's Jeri's Birthday!
2004All in the Family

2005:  Clown Car


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"Happy Birthday, Jeri"

Happy Birthday, Jeri

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(with the hope that everyone in my family will think about making a similar list before their birthdays and/or Christmas roll around!)


FORTY

26 April 2006

I remember my 40th birthday as if it were yesterday.  It was a Tuesday and so it was my day to work at The Lamplighters.  Walt called Gilbert and let him know it was my birthday.

After work, Gilbert and I and a couple of other people from the office all went to Lefty O'Doul's hauf brau in downtown San Francisco and Gilbert bought me a glass of wine (the last of the big-time spenders).

The one thing I remember thinking that day was about my mother.  I wondered how it felt to realize that she was now old enough to have a 40 year old daughter.

Today I know how that feels.  Today our #1 child turns 40...and I'm not sure that she's thrilled to discover that I've devoted a whole journal entry to announcing that fact to the world (sorry, Jeri).

I wrote a really nice piece about Jeri in the first year of this journal.  I tried to decide how to improve on it or add to it and decided that the best thing to do is just to repeat it, because I pretty much said it all...and I have more readers now who probably never read it.

It was 11 p.m., April 25, 1966. I’d been having contractions since about 8 and it was time to go to the hospital. We got the suitcase and started toward the door. Suddenly I stopped and looked around at our apartment, where we had spent the first 10 months of our married life. I realized that it would never again look like this. The next time I saw it, it would be the home of our new child. I turned to Walt. "It’s never going to be like this again," I said, somewhat wistfully. "No," he whispered. "It will be better..."

We returned home with our little bundle. Walt had filled the house with pink flowers. The sound of music box music was playing in the background. We introduced our new daughter to her room. We were a family.

It’s been a wonderful adventure watching Jeri progress from that little blue thing they plopped on my belly after she took her first breath. I first learned of Dr. Seuss with Jeri. We watched the first Sesame Street together. I remember her first ballet recital (when I spent so much time taking pictures I forgot to enjoy the show--I still feel bad about that). She created "stuffies" (stuffed animals) and loved to perform for anybody who'd watch.

Tragedy came the day she learned to roller skate, and then broke her leg the same afternoon. The hardest thing ever is holding your terrified child still while strangers inflict horrible pain on her (older and wiser now, I’m still angry that they gave her no pain killers whatsoever before they pressed her greenstick fracture back into place. I still hear her screams...).

Off to school and a series of parent-teacher conferences all saying how wonderful Jeri was. She got into the fledgling Gifted & Talented program. That year she had a fantastic teacher in her regular classes and it never made sense to me that she would be taken out of her German class to be put into a room to learn how to type, just because she was gifted and talented (I think the program has matured a bit since then.)

Music has always been a big part of her life--piano for 12 years, clarinet she more or less taught herself, with minimal assistance, because it was the only instrument in the school closet that she could play. Years of following the high school marching band around to competitions (they never won, but the trips were fun).

Children’s theatre. Jeri took to it like a duck to water. Oh, not performing. She’s capable, but not outstanding. But she loved all the backstage work. And at age 18 she directed her first production, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

On to college to study theatre design, ending up with a master’s degree from UC Davis. Along the way, always music, music, music. She joined the band Lawsuit, where she played clarinet, saxophone and flute and arranged music for the horns. Some of our happiest days were spent watching Jeri, Paul, Ned, Ned’s wife Marta, and the other members of Lawsuit cavorting on stages all over Northern California.

Tragedy. Jeri and Tom met us at the airport when we rushed back from vacation in New York following David’s death. Standing at the San Francisco airport hugging and crying.

Recovery. All working together to learn to live in a David-less world.

Jeri was hired three years in a row as lighting designer for Weathervane Theatre, a summer theatre in Newark Ohio. We were able to travel to Ohio to see some of her productions.

She drove across the country in her Toyota truck, visiting all the off-road sites along the way (e.g. the Elvis-is-Alive museum and the "Corn Palace"). She has now driven coast to coast, visiting most parts of the country more than once.

Lawsuit came to an end and Jeri, who had been working freelance in theatre in San Francisco for five years, enrolled in a program at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she has just received two merit awards and a scholarship to continue her studies in arranging. She performs with pit bands and fellow Berklee student groups. She recently did her first lighting design for a professional theatre in Boston. She works with high school kids teaching them technical aspects of theatre and will be musical director for a high school production this summer.

More tragedy. Meeting her at the airport after Paul’s death. More hugs. More tears. More pulling together to learn to live in a world that is just a bit smaller with yet another hole in it. "I hate it that we know what we're doing," Tom says.

Jeri is a kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent, talented person. She lives simply (can you say "garret"?) and devotes herself to her passions--music and theatre. She loves her friends and her family intensely and the bond between her and her father is beautiful to see (they plan to go to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park this year, which will certainly be the high point in her father’s year!) She also plays a mean game of poker and loves spending time with her grandmothers.

I am so proud of our daughter. Walt was right, all those years ago. Life was never the same again--it was better than we ever imagined it could be.

Changes since I wrote the above? After graduation from Berklee, Jeri joined the faculty, where she has now been teaching for several years, and continues to play in pit bands for musical throughout the Boston area.

The one thing I have wanted for our daughter has come to pass.  She finally has somebody special in her life.

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Jeri and Phil have known each other since junior high school.   He's always been "one of the group" and they've always shared an interest in things.   This year they discovered that there was a spark there.  After a "test run," they decided that this was the real deal.  Phil came back home to Sacramento, packed up his apartment and moved to Boston.  He's a theatre technician, by trade, so he not only does he have a "portable" profession, but he also understands Jeri's often crazy life.  They seem to be very happy and I couldn't be happier about it all, 'cause he's always been "family" anyway.

It's been a wonderful 40 years, watching Jeri grow and mature into the beautiful, multi-talented woman that she is today.  I wish I could be there to help her celebrate this special birthday.

Happy birthday, Honey--I love you!

PHOTO OF THE DAY

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Happy Birthday, Jeri!

 

 
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4/23/06