On the afternoon of May 16, 1947, my mother heard the Friday novena bell from our parish church as I was about to be born across the street at St. Joseph’s Infirmary on Eastern Parkway in Louisville. The hospital was a fabulous period structure, its corridors lined with ancient radiators and cane-backed wooden wheelchairs. Sisters of Charity in their starched, white nursing habits scurried about the place, which I would come to know so well as a bronchial pneumonia patient just a few years later. My older brother had been born at St. Joseph’s before my father went off to World War II. I was conceived as soon as the soldier returned, and my job was to complete the family in a gendersymmetrical fashion. They even had chosen my name: Mary Ann. I tried hard not to disappoint them after that.
I was named for a pirate. According to legend, Robert Edwards was an English naval officer who arrived in New York in the 1690s. For his service to the crown (relieving Spanish ships of their New World treasure), he allegedly was given a nice chunk of Lower Manhattan, property that now includes the Wall Street financial district. Edwards was said to have leased the land to a pair of churchwardens. When the lease expired, title to the property was supposed to revert to the descendants of Robert Edwards’s brothers and sisters. For three hundred years, generations of people named Edwards have gone to court charging that