You, Neil Patrick Harris, are born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 15, 1973, at what you’re pretty sure is St. Joseph’s Hospital, although it’s hard to be certain as the whole experience leaves you a little blurry.
The first person you encounter is, not surprisingly, your mother, Sheila Scott Harris. As the years go by you will come to learn she is a truly remarkable woman filled with love, kindness, fragility, selflessness, intelligence, wisdom, and humor. The kind of mom who will talk to you like a person and treat you with respect from the age of two. The kind of mom who will hold you in her lap for an entire four-hour car ride, lightly scratching your back. The kind of mom who teaches you the rules of Twenty Questions and then lets you guess the “right” answer even though it wasn’t what she was thinking, but does it subtly enough to keep you from realizing that’s what she’s doing. The kind of mom traditional enough to sing in the Episcopal church choir every week but hip enough to improvise a horrific death for a character in the bedtime story she’s reading you just to make sure you’re paying attention. The kind of mom who sews your Halloween costumes and plays the flute and loves to laugh and encourages you to pursue your passions and at one point trains to become a Jazzercise instructor and at another decides to go back to law school in her thirties and commute four hours each way every weekend for three solid years to make sure she spends enough time with you.
Yeah, you luck out, mom-wise. But at this particular moment she isn’t any of those things so much as a grunting, sweating, shrieking woman in pain.
As she reaches over to hold you for the first time, you notice a man smiling at you. This is your father, Ronald Gene Harris. As the years go by you will come to learn he is strong, stoic, and wise, an amazing husband, lawyer, logical thinker, and fixer of problems. The kind of dad who sometimes trades his legal services for old furniture, which he then spends months refinishing to its pristine, antique glory. The kind of dad who helps you craft winning Soap Box Derby cars while he builds his dream house in the mountains. The kind of dad who, claiming “emergency law work,” begs off a weekend trip to Albuquerque to celebrate your seventh birthday, causing you great disappointment . . . until you get home to realize he’s actually spent the entire time building you a tree house, complete with a sandbox, rope ladder, secret trapdoor, and zip line. The kind of dad who plays folk songs on the guitar, teaches himself the banjo, and shows you how to sing. And, perhaps most important, the kind of dad who’s funny. Not “Dad funny” (i.e., not funny) but actually funny. He looks like a serious conservative thinker, but he is blessed with a dry and untiring sense of humor. He owns every Smothers Brothers and Kingston Trio and Brothers Four LP and plays them constantly. And he is the master of repetition comedy. From the time you are fifteen years old, whenever he is handed the phone to talk to you he will stage-whisper, “No, I don’t want to talk to him, I don’t want to . . . oh, HI, Neil! How are YOU??” Every time. And you will do the same. Every time. And then the two of you will cackle about how funny you are. Every time.
But again, none of these things are immediately apparent to you right now, seeing as how you’re crying, covered in viscous afterbirth, and zero years old.
You come in weighing a very average, very sexy seven pounds, seven ounces. As it happens, that is also the exact weight of an Emmy Award. Coincidence? Yes . . . but true fact? No.
After your cord is cut for your convenience, you’re immediately whisked away for tests, measurements, and the embedding of the electronic neural microchip secretly implanted in all American babies born after 1953. Exhausted from your nine-month ordeal, you ask for and receive permission to spend the night in a comfy bed in the hospital’s maternity ward. You request a single instead of a twin, because you are not a twin.
The next morning you deem yourself ready to go home.
Upon arriving at your new ex utero digs you meet the third member of your immediate family. Your brother, Brian Christopher Harris, is three years older than you at the time of your birth and, as it turns out, will remain so throughout your life. He is the kind of brother who is brilliant and imaginative, a rebel who will spend much of your childhood insisting to you and your parents that he is a Russian prince who somehow ended up in this family under mysterious circumstances he is not at liberty to discuss. The kind of brother who is the family’s designated boundary-tester and who prides himself on being smart and wily enough to survive on wit. The kind of brother who will often confide in you about his secret trips to the numerous abandoned mine shafts dotting the New Mexico landscape whose perpetual status on the brink of sudden collapse are a terror for you but an exhilaration for him—”Neil, I’m going into a mine. If I don’t come back, here’s my location. Don’t tell Mom and Dad unless I’m really truly missing. Bye.” The kind of brother who is paradoxically both an outsider and very popular, who runs for elementary school student-body president with posters reading “SEX!!! . . . Now that I’ve got your attention, vote Brian Harris for Student Body President.” The kind of brother who will throw parties when your parents are out of town and be kind enough to include you, and to whom you will owe your first beer, your first wine cooler, and your first (and only) make-out session with two girls at the same time.
He will be your hero.