2001: Suffering in
Barton, Ladadog and The Black
2004: All in
IN MY OPINION
"Spring Concert 2006"
"Happy Birthday, Jeri"
click here to
flash version is
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
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,
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. Id 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.
"Its 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.
Its 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, Im 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).
Childrens theatre. Jeri took to it like a duck to water. Oh, not performing.
Shes capable, but not outstanding. But she loved all the backstage work. And at age
18 she directed her first production, Youre A Good Man, Charlie Brown.
On to college to study theatre design, ending up with a masters 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, Neds 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 Davids 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 Pauls 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 fathers 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.
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!