A cult took away my birthday. This woman got it back.
This story originally aired on June 22, 2019.
I was born into the Love Family, a culty commune that existed in Seattle in the 1970s and '80s. The family had a leader, a patriarch named Love, and 300 to 400 brothers and sisters. Their first names represented the virtues that Love saw in them — Purity, Solidity, Imagination, Devotion — and their last names were all Israel.
I call it a culty commune because "commune" explains why people joined it, and everything positive they left with. "Cult" explains all the things that went wrong, and why it eventually ended.
This story is about one of the things that went wrong. And the woman who made it right.
I almost didn't have a birthday, because the Love Family didn't believe in them. People in the family didn't keep track of their ages, and they didn't celebrate birthdays. They didn't mark the years. They didn't even keep calendars.
So, that’s how it happened that, on the day I was born, my parents had no idea what day it was.
I almost didn't have a birthday, except I do. And that's because of a midwife named Jael, and her friend named Wisdom. They went against the wishes of the patriarch and committed an act that, in the Love Family, was heresy.
They kept a secret ledger tracking the dates of birth for each child who was born into the family.
This is the story, in her words and in mine, of how she came to create that secret ledger, and what happened on the day when Love found out about it.
This story is adapted from a longer story about the Love Family, which originally aired as a three episode series (Season 2, episodes 8,9,10) on the podcast Family Ghosts.