Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jacob!

Letter to my Son
Wednesday, 10 July

Jacob's Desert Solitaire

Happy Birthday Jacob!

As of today you now have had fourteen years to assess the situation on this planet.  How’s it going?  It can seem a bit overwhelming at times, right?  When you think about it you realize your life is an epic in the making.  Think of the time needed, the miles traveled and the hundreds of people involved – teachers, students, friends, villains, relatives, brothers and sister, Mom and Dad; not to mention all those extras needed for crowded events you attend.  Of course, they each have their own epic in the making.  The scope of all these interwoven lives is just mind-boggling. 

Let’s back up and start with a cake.  Somewhere in human history, probably around the time people developed the idea of the calendar, someone had the notion of birthdays.  For instance, you were born in the summer, on the tenth day of the month named in honor of Julius Caesar – July.  Someone else thought it would be a good idea to celebrate each date of birth of one’s life with baking a cake.  I’m sure that quickly caught on.  We all gather around the cake, exchange greetings of happiness and have a little party.  Of course, people always wanted to know how old you have just become.  How many times now have you traveled all the way around the sun?  By the way, let’s celebrate not only your birth but how many years you have been with us. 

Well, years before, some life of the party had stuck a burning candle smack in the center of the cake to add spectacle and cheer to the proceedings.  It was a big hit.  Now another clever person has just come up with the idea to have a candle burning for each year of one’s life.  Oh, that won’t do, adds another.  The candles are too big!  We’d need a really huge cake or itsy bitsy candles.  It is a great idea, though.  In fact, it is so great we will just have to make skinny little candles special for the cake.  And so they did.  Somewhere in all this merry making people also felt the desire to give gifts of appreciation to the one whose birth was being celebrated.  This gesture also grew grander with time.  Let’s conceal the gift in wrapping so that it becomes a surprise when opened.  The wrapping would become vivid with color and elaborated with ribbon.  It soon got to the point where you felt you were undressing the prize.  Oh, look!  It’s just what I wanted. 

All was well and good when it came time for the birthday.  People eagerly gathered for these family events.  Still, there was something fundamental missing.  People lacked the means to express this shared moment of joy.  “Hip Hip Hurrah!” simply didn't cut it.  It made for a moment of awkward frustration with everyone gathered around the lighted cake with nothing in particular to say.  Thankfully, a couple of sisters with a piano in a parlor somewhere came up with a simple song everyone could sing in tune and feel great doing it.  It was a master stroke.  It quickly became the crescendo to birthday parties celebrated everywhere.  All seemed in harmony and of good feeling, almost.  No, we still have the problem of the burning candles.  We can’t very well eat the cake like this.  What to do.  You know what I think?  I think the solution came as a spontaneous burst of expression.  The scene is set.  Everyone is gathered together as the cake is brought in.  People begin to sing.

   Happy Birthday to you,
   Happy Birthday to you,
   Happy Birthday dear Jacob,
   Happy Birthday to you.

Then someone exclaims, “Blow out the candles.”
“No, wait,” someone else chimes in.  “First make a wish.  If you blow out all the candles in one breathe your wish will come true.”
Yes, yes, everyone agreed.  This was a fine idea.  But they also secretly felt you got your wish anyway, even if you couldn't put out all the candles in a single blow.  After all, it was your birthday.

Life is good.  Enjoy your birthday.  My picture for you this year is what I call “Jacob’s Desert Solitaire.”  If it seems to you undone maybe it was left for you to finish.  Your art has always been a delight for me.  Happy Birthday, Jacob!


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