As Lennon and McCartney sang:

“You say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too —yeah
They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you!”

Birthdays are meant to be shared. Joyous occasions, celebrating new life, another trip around the sun, and ice cream and cake. Jimmy’s birthday is April 28 and in our family, we always made a big “do” on the actual day if humanly possible. Or rather, as the only female in a household of guys, including the cats, I was the one “doing!” From parties with piñatas in the back yard to crack of dawn surf trips for as many kids as could fit in our white and brown chevy van, we shared the kids birthdays with their tribe. Homemade chocolate cakes eventually were replaced with Becker’s Bakery masterpieces, complete with blue waves and surfboards, crashing down upon a realistic portrait of Jimmys face. Captain Crunch in the morning, Doritos all day and pizza for dinner were the ingredients for a perfect celebration.

Jimmy loved the trips and craziness of his birthday parties, but was never really comfortable with all the attention on himself. I learned this the hard way, when I sent a singing, dancing pizza man to find him at lunch time in middle school. “What could be better,” I thought. “He loves pizza and would be stoked to share it with his friends. As he relived that “the single most embarrassing experience in his entire life” to me (years later) I wondered how I could have been that thoughtless and unaware of how standing out in the school yard would be so cringeworthy. It got me to thinking about how well we really know our loved ones. Maybe I was creating something I would have loved at that age, but instead, created trauma for Jimmy. As an adult, he loved to tease me about the “pizza man incident,” and our whole family always laughed as he described the debacle each birthday. And yet, I wondered.

As Jimmys 50th birthday approaches, the question of how well do we really know our loved ones resurfaces. My heart is filled with joy and remembrance, and so much love for the incredible human being who we lost almost 15 years ago. His last birthday was one of our family’s happiest. We spent it in our backyard at 524. I remember the smell of the jasmine, the softly burning candles and the fact we didn’t need jackets or sweatshirts in April at the beach!! Jeff and Alissa had just gotten engaged and we were all so excited and looking forward to sharing an amazing time together. I made the old fashioned chocolate brownie cake with his name and the number 35, with a huge red heart around it. It felt like we had come full circle, back to his happy place. As we started to clear the table and go back inside, Jimmy leaned over and whispered, “Mom, this is my best birthday.” That’s the Jimmy I knew.

“I’m glad it’s your birthday, Happy Birthday to you!”