You Say It’s Your Birthday

You Say It’s Your Birthday

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!”

I’ve Been Thinking

It’s impossible to think that Jimmy left us 15 years ago. If you are reading this note, you probably get our newsletter, read our social media, or have supported the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation in some way. We are so grateful for your devotion over the years. Many of you knew Jimmy. You grew up with him, attended Robinson, Center or Mira Costa. Some of you learned to surf on 14th and 4th Street with him and encouraged that 8 year old to keep trying, and that it was OK to fall and get back up again. You may have gone to Cal with him and surfed that crazy cold water at Pacific Beach. Perhaps you traveled with him, to all corners of the world, in search of great waves and even greater adventures. Some of you were Los Angeles County Lifeguards, Taplin participants or shared his favorite job, teaching Junior Guards and instituting surfing and the “biggest sandwich” competitions. As time went by, many of you were his first “Pure Surfing Experience” students, campers, counselors and cooks. Your parents entrusted Jimmy to take you to Jalama for a week of “pure surfing,” camping and discovery. His passion was his profession, but there was always time for the travel! From Hawaii, Indo, Mexico, Peru, Spain, France, Morocco, Canada, the BVI’s, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Viet Nam, Israel, Egypt, and that’s just where I can think of as I write this note. Jimmy could get more on one postcard than most people could write in 6 pages! For many years, Jimmy wrote for the Beach Reporter, each month sharing his surf experiences with thousands of followers, who vicariously lived through his adventures, escapades and close encounters with sharks, smugglers, outlaws and rogue waves! Only a few of you know where “Spot X” is, and that’s the way he hoped it would be!

This year, I have been asked to write a monthly column about Jimmy and JMMF. I am reaching out to all of you to ask me questions, share an experience or photo, or just drop us a line about how Jimmy or the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation has touched your life. I know how you have touched my life and the life of our family and board members. Our motto is “healing ourselves and others, one wave at a time,” and all of you have helped us along in this journey.

With love and so much gratitude,