Tag Archives: birthday

Big Brother Turns 40

No, not the Big Brother of George Orwell’s classic 1984, although that work does get referenced below. Nope, I’m talking about my big brother, Pete.

Pete is on the left, hating the camera as always.
Pete is on the left, hating the camera as always.

I wrote a poem for my parents’ 40th Anniversary some time ago, and it was well received.

My sister-in-law called a couple months ago and reminded me that my big brother’s 40th birthday was coming up. “If you want to write something for his birthday, I know he’ll love it,” she said.

“Uh… sure,” I replied. “I can write something.” But what?

For two months, this project has nagged at the back of my mind, with no clear direction of where to go.

Then, a few days before his birthday, I remembered time spent with my brother and my mom, writing various haiku.

We followed the 5-7-5 syllable format for our haiku. My mom and brother would try to write poignant and powerful things about summer, love, the future, spirituality.

I think I wrote about really important stuff: ramen, video games, and my favorite toys.

In the spirit of those fond memories, I started jotting down some haiku about my brother and my relationship with him.

40 of them would have been too many, but 14 seemed a good number.

Big Brother, forty?
I don’t know what I should say
Past “Happy birthday”

You only enjoyed
Two and a half years without
A little brother

My entire life I’ve
Had a big brother, and I
Wouldn’t change a thing

We’d play karate
My villain, you the hero
I’d want to be like

You put up with me
Chasing you and all your friends
You included me

You introduced me
To the wonder and magic
Hidden in pages

Kingdoms like Gondor
Worlds like Narnia, Bespin
Past and future times.

Sentient robots,
Dragons and dwarves and Wookiees
Doctors and hobbits

We spent hours and nights
Combing nuclear Wasteland
Swapping floppy disks

You challenged my faith
Encouraged me to stand firm
When others gave up

You opened the door
Of my first comic book store
And I was drawn in

To art and legend,
Heroes in tales of virtue,
Overcoming flaws

I unlike Winston
Need no O’Brien to make
Me love Big Brother

So much of my life
Was shaped to imitate you.
For that, I’ll say “Thanks.”

Happy Bird Day

I call this blog Literary Karaoke because I realized that my writing – like many other things I do – is good enough for people to enjoy it for free, but not necessarily good enough to make a living.

I play piano really well, but I fall into that same category. And I also draw a decent picture… decent enough that people like my artwork, but not so much that I can hang up my military hat and draw a paycheck. (See what I did there?)

Let’s add another thing to the list: Cakes!

Good enough for the price I paid.
Good enough for the price I paid.

Good enough to please our 8 year old birthday boy… and that’s what counts.

He’s the middle child. Technically he’s one of two middle children, but our oldest boy (12 now) and teenage daughter (14 last week) are usually teamed up. So the Angry Bird lover is the one who most often gets excluded, and exhibits the “middle child” symptoms the most.

We aimed to make today special – he got to have one of his friends over for cake, ice cream, and a movie. He got a present from a friend of our oldest boy. He opened gifts from his grandparents, and I surprised him with a Lego set my wife and I had hidden away.

We ate a cheap decoy cake while the cake I made was cooling in the fridge.

But then his friend gets a knock on the door in the middle of the movie. Other neighborhood kids want the friend to come out and bike around the housing area or whatever. And this friend’s logic is, “Well, I have already seen this movie, so…” and he walks out.

Pretty crappy, if you ask me.

At the same time, it’s a hard life lesson. Sadly, all too often, people don’t care about you except for how you benefit them. “I’ll come over for the cake and the ice cream until something more interesting comes along.”

My son didn’t seem to mind, but I still brought him over and let him curl up on my lap to watch the rest of the movie. He snuggled up and fell asleep. It was a rare moment, especially considering how he keeps getting older. (Why don’t they just stay at that perfect cute age of…well, not growing up so fast?)

After the movie, he got up, built his Lego set (which was promptly destroyed by the 2 year old), and played on his scooter outside for a bit. And I decorated the cake with his favorite bird, his favorite color, his favorite frosting, and some surprise treats in the form of Angry Birds gummies around the edges.

Because I want him to know that no matter what the world says or does, no matter how often they’re content to take what they want from him and then set him aside, there’s one thing he can count on.

Mom and Dad think he’s amazing, and there’s always a special place for him here.

And sometimes there’s cake.

Seven

No, I’m not thinking of the Brad Pitt / Morgan FreemanĀ Seven(or Se7en, as it’s apparently called on IMDB)… although I do like that movie.

Justin doing… yeah, I don’t really know what that is, but he does it a lot.

I’m thinking of this crazy guy…

Yesterday was Justin’s 7th birthday, and we got to celebrate with some presents from his grandparents and from us. We also nommed some cake and ice cream, and I also had time to sit and think about Justin.

More than any of the others, Justin is our “Family Circus” child. By that I mean I can picture him bouncing around and running around leaving some little dotted trail over furniture and walls and fences and cars as he unleashes his pent-up energy upon our neighborhood or house (or both).

But as is typical of children this age, he is serene while sleeping, and you can almost picture the glowing gold halo over his head.

Yeah, the one that morphs into horns and a pointed tail as soon as he wakes up.

I stopped in his room before going to work on Friday, to wish him happy birthday and spend a few minutes with him. Then I came home to ambulances and crashing and running around and insanity.

Then I added to it by giving him cake and ice cream and Lego sets.

But sure enough, bed time rolled around, and again, the spiral of destruction stops, the horns vanish, the halo reappears for a brief moment, and he crawls into bed, wrapped up in his blanket, grinning at the thought of playing Lego Batman 2 on the Xbox in the morning.

I played around on the piano a bit, trying to capture some of that transition throughout the day. I think the middle part could stand to be much more frenetic, to be true to the source of its inspiration. But I’m content with how it turned out.

Back to his birthday…

Justin’s favorite

He is absolutely insane about Angry Birds, so we got him some pencil toppers with his favorite bird. That present was the distraction, because he could see that one through the bag when we brought it into the house a few weeks ago.

I don’t know why Justin latched onto Angry Birds, but he sure did. I think he has them bouncing around in his head, smashing through ice and wood and stones, and crushing green pigs. I mean, it’s his favorite thing, that’s cool… but it goes from “I enjoy this hobby” to “I can talk about nothing else” most days.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“I don’t know, Justin. Why?”
“BECAUSE ANGRY BIRDS.”

It’s pretty much like that all day long.

He also loves Lego, and there’s a red Ninjago ninja named Kai that apparently is the coolest thing ever. Justin has been asking/begging/pleading for the Kai’s Motorcycle set for quite some time. For a while, it disappeared off the local shelves, and that worked out really well for keeping him in suspense. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to get it for your birthday, Justin. The stores don’t have it.”

The ninja in question

Then we stopped by Target with him one day and they had about 80 of the sets on the shelf.

Still, we were able to sneak it past him by getting it on a different trip to the store while Deborah stayed home with the kids, so at least it was a genuine surprise.

He was ecstatic opening his presents, and Jonathan (11 years old) was picking on him, mimicking his outbursts. Jonathan’s too old to be all crazy about Legos or Angry Birds or any of that. You could almost hear the smug thoughts in his head: “Haha, look at the little brother freaking out about his favorite Lego set. Isn’t he quite energetic? How quaint.”

Justin ran off to put together Kai’s motorcycle, and came back with the included ad for other Ninjago sets, screaming, “AAAAH! They have a two-headed Lego dragon with THE GREEN NINJA!”

Guess who was rushing, wide-eyed, to take a look at this Lego set, and who flipped out when he saw that it was really a four-headed Lego dragon. “That set has Lord Garmadon and his son Lloyd Garmadon, who unleashed all the snakes. Look at that! They made a four-headed dragon out of all the other dragons, and it’s the Green Ninja’s dragon! That’s soooo cool!!!”

Four heads! Green ninja! $225 on Ebay!

Yeah, who’s laughing now, bud?

Hint: it’s your Mom and me.

Back to Justin…

Justin’s favorite thing from his grandparents is this realistic model ambulance toy with lights and sirens and all that a seven year old needs. He was driving that all over the place when I got home from work.

Yes, my parents got him noisy toys for his birthday.

On purpose.

I have to figure out what I’ve done to offend them. (kidding)