I was conceived, I'm told (by my mother, and we women sometimes know these things), in Spirit Lake, Iowa. My parents were moving from Troy, NY, where my father had just finished a degree, to LA, where my father would attend UCLA. They were driving cross-country with my brother, a teething 8-month-old. They made it as far as Spirit Lake where it was mutually decided that the baby wasn't going another mile in the car except to an airport. My mother was not pregnant when they left New York, and was by the time she got to L.A. I was born the next March, 1961.
My parents divorced when I was six months old. Mother moved the children back to Long Island where she married her high school sweetheart who, when I was 4, legally adopted my brother and I. He has been Dad to me since. Mom and Dad gave us a brother and sister and, after a move Upstate, another brother. In 1973 Mom and Dad divorced.
Back in California, my biological father also remarried, had two more sons, and redivorced. As it turned out, he had always regretted the decision to give up his first two children (as had his wife). He and two friends made a trip east in the summer of '73 and Jo had decided to look up his children. He learned of Mom and Dad's divorce from Dad's brother. Before contacting us, he called Dad for permission. And so it was that one quiet afternoon in October of 1973 I answered a call for my mother from "an old friend, Jack, from California" (Weren't all Johns nick-named Jack in the 60s?). Once Mom and Dad divorced, I was no longer forbidden from discussing my parentage and knew exactly who Jack was. I've had two fathers since.
By 1977, Dad had left New York for a job in Missouri. Mom, who had always been a stay-at-home mother, was tired of living on public assistance and could only see one way out. She sold everything that we had, bought an old station wagon, had a huge box built and bracketed to the top of the car for the few possessions we kept, packed the car with the five kids, two dogs, a cat, and five kittens, and hit the road back to California, where you don't have to pay heat bills or buy winter coats. After two days on the road and a day of being stranded on the side of the Interstate just outside Chicago, Mom realized that she didn't have the money it would take to get to California. Knowing someone in Brookings, South Dakota (a friend, 'Jack', from California), Mom decided to go there. Brookings is a mere 3 hours drive from Spirit Lake, Iowa. Thus, I was conceived in Spirit Lake, IA, born in L.A., raised in New York, and wound up stuck a stone's throw from where I first started.
Brookings is a pretty little "Tree-City, USA" city...but we couldn't have got a more opposite climate from Southern California's. Instead of no winter coats or heat bills, we learned what wind-chills and sun-dogs are. Instead of picturesque, gentle snowfalls, we were introduced to the horizontal snow of three-day-blizzards and sub-zero temperatures; instead of no school when it gets all the way down to 17º, we learned of 'plug-ins' for your car's engine and "winter survival kits" for your car's trunk.
To be continued...