Today is the birthday of Meg, the beautiful consort/mate/partner/wife of our son Eli. Meg is a strong agile performer on the circus static bar and a kick-ass stage performer, but when she was born she was an early arrival, tiny but clearly a fighter. My mind tries to imagine them side by side at birth, Eli having clocked in at over 8 pounds. By now they match each other very well.
Conrad was a big baby too, born in Denver to a mother who was in the process of being deserted; the final disappearance took a couple of years, but on that cold October morning in Denver she was all alone and had to call a taxi to get her to the hospital. It was a long hard birthing, but when she finally held her son in her arms, he was already the light of her life, the baby her husband had forbidden her to have.
When I was born my mother was alone too, having been shipped from Milwaukee to Brooklyn to avoid disgrace. I don’t know what her birth experience was like; I don’t know if she ever got to hold me. After I was born she finished her degree, married a good man and had my brother Dan.
Going back a generation, Conrad’s mother Margaret was born to an Iowa German farm family, middle child between two boys, and consequently of no family status. Her mother was cold and unloving, but she thrived anyway, got off the farm, and made her own life. When she became a single mom, she put rivets in the Enola Gay, drove a dynamite truck, and did whatever it took to raise her son.
Conrad’s dad, Bert, was born in Kansas, the youngest of seven children; the father was a farmer who migrated from Pennsylvania to Kansas when evicted by the Battle of Gettysburg. He subsequently claimed to have been born in Florida, and changed his name to Conrad. After deserting Margaret for daring to have a child, he ran off with another woman and had five daughters.
My mother Elizabeth was born to a beautiful woman who had a stellar business career until she married a widower seventeen years her senior; the marriage failed, and Elizabeth spent years in private boarding schools. While a student at UW Madison, she became involved with a fellow musician, and I was the result.
My father Robert had a tumultuous childhood; his mother died when he was four years old, a victim of the flu epidemic. His dad couldn’t cope, and he was raised by his uncle and aunt. He was one of the recording tech crew who carried heavy equipment around the countryside recording the music that became part of the Smithsonian Collection, and served in the military with expertise in radio and radar. He married and had three kids; I doubt he knew he’d already made a baby.
So many threads, so many stories. This is why we’ve made theatre, and are making novels. Every single person you pass on the street has stories like these. We are all unique, and all connected. I tell you my family stories here because they’re likely to make you think of your own. Each of us has a hero’s journey, and they’re all different, and they’re all related. Let’s live in a world where we honor these stories, all of them.