Vicki on the window seat (circa 1957)
I seem to suffer from some congenital defect that messes up my ability to do the correct thing on anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, family birthdays, etc. Today is Vicki’s birthday, and, while I managed to send off an e-card, that’s admittedly a poor second to a real card in the mail. I love my sister with my whole heart, and I think it’s ridiculous that California and Ohio are so far apart and that we’re such erratic communicators.
The fourth week of February was the biggest birthday week of the year for our family. I don’t think even Christmas rivaled it in emotional intensity. Vicki leads it off today on Feb. 24, celebrating her sixtyish birthday (which one regards as youthful when you’re her ten year older brother). Then our mother Doris’ birthday is tomorrow on Friday, Feb. 25, and our brother Steven’s is Sunday, Feb. 27. As siblings we’d have lengthy discussions of the meaning of this remarkable cluster. Already jealous about Vicki’s special status as the youngest child and only daughter, we three older brothers would pretend to be peeved about her #1 placement in Birthday Week, insisting that that honor should have belonged to our mother. Vicki didn’t even bother to pay attention to her brothers’ teasing, having learned to fend them off at an early age. Steven would be grumpy about being last in the sequence, but then he would change his mind and declare that the preceding birthdays were just preliminaries for the biggest celebration of all. He claimed that there was no family birthday on Feb. 26, just so everybody could recharge their batteries in order to celebrate his grand day on Feb. 27.
Steve’s 8th birthday (1949)
Peter and I were sort of left out. We were born in the summer, he in June, I in July. Though in a minority, we claimed that summer was preferable to mid-winter, given swimming in the river and fires in the outdoor fireplace. Our dad Vic was born in November, a cold and gray time in Menominee. We felt guilty that he had no birthday partners, but he was unflappable. My dad’s opinion was that birthdays were matters for the young, and he discouraged any sort of recognition for himself and Doris, though we would all go to the drugstore and bring home some baubles.
Peter’s 5th birthday (1950)
My 10th birthday (1947)
We children got very excited about our birthdays, primarily about the bevy of gifts. Now that I think about it though, these events had much larger significance for the family as a whole. They provided the ritual occasion for collectively telling individuals they were loved and were so special that they deserved a family celebration centered wholly upon themselves. So I send our birthday wishes to Vicki today and encourage her to enjoy the special place she has occupied in our hearts for all these many years.
-Vicki L (3-5): Hi David, Yet another delayed email. Thank you for this birthday tribute. I, too, always thought it was amazing that Doris, Steven and I had birthdays clustered together. Of course, I was oblivious to how you and Peter may have felt.
Vic was a true Swede - minimizing his own needs for attention - but, I agree, we knew better. I suppose we're nonetheless still challenged (given his modeling) - to enjoy recognition and overt expressions of love. This is still uncomfortable for me, but I must say, I'm learning to enjoy these gestures - including your reaching out to wish me a happy (64th) birthday. You're such an excellent older brother. Love, Vicki
-Kiera O (2-28): What a wonderful remembrance and birthday tribute...again I’m grateful to Terry for keeping me tuned in to David's treasure trove. love, Kiera
-Jennifer M (2-24): This is a very nice birthday message for Vicki. :-)