The Half-Birthday

by Jann Gargiulo — I want to tell you a true story about my birthday. Not just mine, but all of the birthdays in my immediate family. I have five brothers and six sisters, plus my mom and dad. Oh, and don’t forget me! I guess deep down, that was the problem! Why me?

With that many people in one family, there were sure to be multiple birthdays in a month. January was my Mom’s birthday and my brother Chuck’s. So, my Dad would bring home half a sheet cake from the bakery that read, “Happy Birthday Mom and Chuck.” In April, the cake read, “Happy Birthday Dad and Doris,” and so on. We had three more in July, two in August, three in November, and one in December. Twelve children plus two parents equals 14 people; but only 13 are listed. Therein lies the story. That April cake got to me EVERY year! No one even noticed. You see, I was born in April! On my sister’s birthday! Of course they remembered April 5 was HER birthday because she’d been around 13 years longer.

One year, when I was 11, my Mom noticed me in her room crying. She asked if I had a tummy ache already. She held me and commented, “Honey, you seem to get sick at this same time every year…”

I could almost see a light bulb come on over her head!

“Oh no! Jann how long has this been happening?” I couldn’t tell her. It would be like telling on Daddy! So, I just put my head down. She commented, “From now on, we’ll celebrate your half-birthday, just you and me! Okay?”

Of course that was okay. None of the others got that, and I wasn’t going to tell them! She would let me stay home from school that day, give me money and let me take the bus to the Plaza to get my gift, while she made my birthday cake. Then she sang “Happy Birthday,” and we’d sit down to have a piece before everyone got home.

I loved what my Mom did for me; it made me feel special. When Ted became my husband “to be,” she asked me if she should talk to him about the half-birthday. I told her, “No, his birthday is October 6, so we’ll celebrate them together!” She loved that.

My mom kept her word every year until she died. Afterwards, Ted and I moved into my Dad’s to care for him. He told the greatest stories, and I loved hearing them. However, one day he made a statement I just couldn’t let slip by him. He said, “No one believes that I can still name the birth months of all my children!” He was so proud!

I responded, “OK, Daddy, you say them, we’ll count.” So, he began reciting them, but always ended with 11! Finally, he hung his head, looking very confused. “Who did I forget?”
?I gave him a big hug and laughed, “Me, silly! You’ve always forgotten me. But it’s all right, Mom took care of it years ago.” And I told him the story.

To this day, I celebrate my half-birthday in honor of my mom.

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