Jeff-Fest: My Annual Birthday Celebration

My birthday creeps up this time every year, and I usually find myself in a better mood than my usual cheerful demeanor. My Mom once remarked that even as a child, I always liked my Birthday just a bit more than my siblings. As I get older though, these days become a source of personal reflection, and I do have plenty for which to be happy and thankful. So in my cheery fervor, I affably have named the 90 days surrounding my birthday Jeff-Fest-The International Festival of Jeff, and usually get a chuckle or two from family, friends and colleagues.

I share the same special day with actresses MichelleTrachtenberg and Joan Cusack, late country singer Dottie West (who has several great songs with favorite singer Kenny Rogers), country singer Gene Watson, actors Luke Perry and Sean Patrick Flannery, and R&B soul and pop-rock singer extraordinaire Daryl Hall. Imagine all these people in a room having birthday cake-I would not even be able to get in the door!

At any rate, in celebration of Jeff-Fest 2011, I have recalled a few of my favorite birthday memories.

October 11, 1969

The planets were aligned that Fall-because I came into the world a happy baby boy. I’m sure the cosmos stuttered a bit, but quickly realigned their natural motion.

Birth notices in local newspapers are full of the names of kids born in the same hospital on the same day. As a teenager, I met a birthday hospital mate-so Diane H.-wherever you are-Happy Birthday to you also. It was really fun to meet someone from the same hospital and birthdate!

My early birthdays are a bit hazy, but I recall having received Batman action figures or various play sets from the Fisher Price Adventure People collection (know in my house as BFP: Big Fisher Price stuff). Between my siblings and me, we amassed quite a collection of BFP, some of which have survived the first round of grandchildren and remain available for my son to enjoy. Thanks to eBay, I can even add or replace some of the more popular items.

Columbus Day-2nd Monday of October any year

I think it is pretty cool to have a National Holiday around my special day. It was often an excuse for no school, and remains a day that I try to take off from work when I can. It is a day that I can have to myself…these days the best gift I can get is time.

October 11, 1977

We lived in a house had an addition on to the back-a large informal dining room. It had a 70’s style wood paneled wall that Mom used as a staging for birthday pictures. She would cut out a banner with our names and arch it over where we would stand. I love that picture from when I was 8, and I loved my Mom for going through the trouble of putting that together not only for me, but for all of us. Also, as a kid on our birthday we were exempt from household chores, and could pick the main meal. She also put a scrolled note in our lunches on our birthdays-her little touches just made me feel very special. Also with five kids in the house, Mom and Dad tried to equalize the gifts as much as possible. We all had a party at age 7, age 10 we received a wristwatch, age 11 was a new bike.

October 11, 1979

Hitting 10 for me was the beginning of a lifelong love and appreciation of music. Music was always around the house anyway, but for my 10th birthday I received my first album-Kenny Rogers The Gambler. Several birthdays that followed in my teens and even into my adulthood were celebrated with yet another Kenny Rogers album.

October 11, 1980

The celebrated Golden Birthday! My Mom forgot it was the Golden Birthday, but wrapped up 11 things from around the house anyway.

October 11, 1983

Concert tickets! This was a cool surprise present from my parents. Mom and I went to see Kenny Rogers a few weeks later. (I even wrote another Yahoo! article about that experience.)

October 9, 1987

A few days in advance of 18, I went on a date with the girl who later became my wife.

October 11, 1990

The second half of my college years were spent away at school. Luckily, I lived with a brother and some guys from the neighborhood. 21 was spent in the apartment with the guys. I have never been much of a drinker, but I do remember having the celebrated beer that night. (I didn’t care for it much!)

October 11, 1996

The first Columbus Day weekend after my wife and I were married was spent on a weekend trip to Minneapolis / St. Paul to the Mall of America. We took a scenic highway from LaCrosse up to St Paul, and it was a beautiful drive in the summer lit fall.

October 11, 1998

Terribly sad and happy events that weekend: my father-in law died from cancer on October 8, so we were busy with visitation and funeral activity. He was a very contented, yet very quiet man, and his passing was very hard for my wife. I remember the last night we saw him he gripped my hand and did not let it go for a couple of minutes, and we had to have Mom distract him a little so we could leave. It was a very touching gesture from a man who did not say much.

On a positive side our nephew Andrew was baptized that weekend, and for us as his Godparents, there was some joy.

October 11, 1999

My Mom gave me a collection of my childhood baby and school portraits-birth through high school. All my siblings received a similar collection on their respective 30th birthdays.

October 11, 2002

As a hobbyist musician, I have made attempts to write my own stuff, and on my day in 2002, my brother-in-law and I recorded one of them properly in his home studio. I had been playing in his band starting earlier that year, so we were pretty comfortable and it was a blast to do that project. We have since redone “We Were Crazy” for mass release, but the first version was a birthday present to me.

October 11, 2003

Mike and I did another recording project with another original tune. “Need You with Me Tonight” was fun to record as well. Going into the studio that day I did not have a clear picture of what I wanted the song to become, but I was very happy with the outcome. This original version was put up on iTunes on 2008, with a release date of -you guessed it-October 11.

September 15, 2009

My wife’s birthday is six weeks before mine, so in the middle of September we had a joint 40th Birthday party with both sides of our families getting together one afternoon.

October 11, 2010

Last year, Columbus Day was celebrated on my day, so we took our 6 year old son roller skating during the afternoon. Skating kind of became our family activity over the last couple of years, so it was fun to go out and get a little exercise as a family. Since he was born, some of my happiest moments are when we are all together, and that’s what makes for a special birthday these days. I also purchased a young tree for the front yard and had it installed. It was a good choice, and made for a conversational birthday gift.

As of this writing, we do not have any specific Jeff-Fest plans for this year, save for probably taking the day off work as my son is off school for a teacher’s institute day. In addition to the personal reflection and celebration, I’m sure I’ll come up with something memorable!

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