This was originally printed on this date in 2000, but I want to repeat it today, Jeri's 50th birthday, updated a bit.
Two days old
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 very 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 theater in San Francisco for five years, enrolled in a program at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and was offered a job on her graduation. She has now been on the faculty for about 10 years.
She performs with pit bands for musicals around the Boston area. She works with high school kids teaching them technical aspects of theatre. She's the person who can design your lights, play in the band, and then fix the lights at intermission if something goes wrong during the first act.
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 said.
So much happiness on the beach in Santa Barbara when Jeri and Phil finally married, running off into the waves after the ceremony and playing softball in their wedding finery.
Jeri is a kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent, talented, fun-loving person. She lives simply and devotes herself to her passions--music and theatre. She loves her husband, their dog, her friends and her family intensely and the bond between her and her father is beautiful to see. She loved both her grandmothers and has always been very attentive to them the older and more feeble they got. She is my mother's "precious child," even if my mother doesn't remember that any more.
She's the best aunt ever and absolutely loves spending time with Brianna and Lacie, and they with her.
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.
Happy Birthday, Honey! (Have you joined AARP yet?)