Friday, December 6, 2013

Birthday Boy

When your children are little they sit on your lap; when they’re big they sit on your heart.
– Susan Engel, New York Times

My boy turns 25 on Monday. I can't say my "baby" boy or even my "little" boy. He stands 6'6" and is a very handsome young man. Jack will spend his birthday in China, hopefully celebrating this weekend with friends and teaching English to his high-schoolers on Monday. I think of him often, but seems like this week, he has been constantly on my mind sitting on my heart.

I pulled out our Red Plate Journal this morning to read about some of his previous birthdays. I wish I had entries for all 24 of them, but we didn't start the journal until his 11th birthday. The last entry was in 2006 for his 18th. For three years after that, he was away at University in Canada. Once the kids left home, we fell off our efforts to capture these special memories. I'm so sorry we did.

In case you don't know about our Red Plate dinners, let me explain. In December of 1999, our neighbors – the Bakers – brought us a red dinner plate and a journal with a note explaining "whenever someone in your family does something worthy of note, or something in which to take pride, his or her dinner is served on the Red Plate." The event, the date and any comments were to be recorded in the journal so that we would have a permanent record of special moments in the life of our family.

At the time, we had a Polaroid camera, so we would glue a photo of the honored recipient into the journal, on the same page as the entry. Our journal documents everything from birthdays to Father's Day celebrations, to sports and academic awards, drivers' licenses, graduations, to Mary being a good sport about both breaking her arm and getting braces all in one week.

So, in honor of Jack's upcoming birthday, here are the entries from Jack's 11th through 18th birthdays...(Please don't feel like you have to read this entire post. I just got started with these entries and couldn't stop. I suspect they are only meaningful to me -- and maybe to Ed.)

December 9, 1999
Jack is the first one to use The Red Plate. On his birthday, he requested fondue. His gifts included a rod/reel, fondue pot, cookbook, and bow & arrow.  The Wunderlins sent down Tiramisu dessert, his favorite.

December 9, 2000
Jack played in a basketball tournament today and did GREAT. His choice for dinner on The Red Plate was steak, potatoes, salad and cheesecake. His presents included a set of Powerbilt irons, a chef's hat and apron, a Beatles book and a cookie press.

December 9, 2001
Jack spent his actual 13th birthday in New York City with Mom and Dad. While there, we went to SoHo, Chinatown, took the Staten Island Ferry, saw "Music Man" on Broadway, went to museums, and ate, and ate, and ate.

December 9, 2002
One happy boy...spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. A keyboard for his birthday. We love him so much...

December 7, 2003
We celebrated Jack's 15th birthday tonight as he has Madrigal practice on Tuesday night. His Red Plate dinner included strip steak with béarnaise sauce, potatoes, salad and cherry pie a la mode. He has to wait for Tuesday for his gifts...

December 9, 2004
Our Buddy turned 16 today. He is going with Dad tomorrow to take his permit test – and then watch out! For his birthday, he got "Dodge ball" from the Wunderlins, a White Castle gift certificate from the Davises, cookies from Patrice, keys from Maggie and Mary and clothes (mostly) from Mom and Dad. We love you Buddy – and are very proud of you.

Dec. 10, 2005
Jack spent his birthday in Burgin, KY, playing basketball. LCS won! So it was the next night before we could celebrate Jack's 17th birthday. He requested Osso Buco for dinner. Oliver Cox came to his party. Oliver is 4 and is the little boy that Mary loves to babysit. (His mom used to babysit for Maggie, Jack and Mary). Jack's gifts were a NASCAR jacket and shirt, White Castle underwear and a ukulele.

Dec. 9, 2006
Jack took some time out from basketball, Madrigal practice, school work and college applications to celebrate his 18th birthday. And what a celebration it was: french onion soup, beef wellington and homemade coconut cake – followed by lots of presents: cowboy boots, a bike, books, music and a big package from Dean & Deluca's from the Davis family. Happy Birthday Buddy. We love you.

I'm hoping Jack will send a report of his 25th birthday celebration, and maybe a photo. If he does, I'll paste into our journal. Maybe it is time to find the Red Plate that is packed away somewhere in the basement and resurrect Red Plate dinners and their journal entries.


  1. I read the entry from beginning to end. So tender and so wonderful to have an account of each celebration. I may have to start the tradition for this second generation of little ones in my life. Happy Birthday to Jack!

  2. Yes, I think you should. I think both families should have a red plate/journal and you need one too -- for when they come to visit. Our kids loved to pass the journal around the dinner table, laughing at entries/photos.