In Hindsight: Happiness in birthdays


This is my nephew Jo-Jo celebrating his first birthday. At least he got a Wolverine costume. He also had a huge first birthday party and this picture has no real relevance to this story. It just makes me laugh and laugh.

Birthday are a funny thing in my family. According to Filipino tradition (or maybe my parents just needed an extra year to get ready), the 2nd birthday of a child is the big, all-get-out celebration with the house full of guests, tables sagging under the weight of food and gifts aplenty (for my first birthday, I think all I got was my head shaved. Plus, my sister blew out my one candle. There are pictures. See below).


Why the guilty look, hmmm, sister??

So Filipinos (well maybe just my family) learn that while birthdays are nice, it’s really the milestone birthdays that count. For my mom’s 70th birthday, all us kids and our accrued familial appendages flew from around the country over to Los Angeles to celebrate with her.

Accordingly, when my husband turned 30, I made a big deal out of it—it was a costume party (“Sound of Music” turned “Sound of Bjorn’s Birthday”– in reference to it being one of his favorite childhood movies. I also briefly considered “Heidi” but figured the explanation would be longer than the invitation), with tons of food AND a pinata. Seriously, he had a smorgasbord of all his favorite food and at least 4 different kinds of desserts. People celebrated him in song (oh all right, I forced them to do it as one of the party games).

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Bjorn is dressed as Capt. von Trapp at the ball, and I am dressed as Capt. von Trapp’s whistle.

But that was last year.

Don’t worry; he will still get a cake and balloons, a dinner at the restaurant of his choice, a new outfit and his name in the paper, plus we will do whatever he wants to do all weekend long. It’s just this year’s extravaganza won’t be so “extra.” This year he wanted an iPad which effectively wipes out any big party budget. I must admit that a tiny part of me is relieved. I would be lying if I said that planning a big party doesn’t exhaust me. And without a “significant” number attached, I just don’t feel as motivated (although I still want it to be special for him).

But another part of me feels conflicted and guilty. Reaching another birthday is in itself a milestone and a wonderful achievement that should be celebrated accordingly. I love my husband dearly and am over-the-moon that I get to be with him on another birthday. He is an amazing man who tries really hard to make me happy and deserves a fantabulous party and more if he wants. But the thought of slaving over a stove for hours, agonizing over party details, running around town on last-minute errands—ACK.

I wonder if this is how it starts — you slack off on a birthday here and there with your husband, and before you know it, you’re celebrating your second kid’s birthdays with half-defrosted Sara Lee Cherry cheesecakes until you realize your youngest child is bald on their first birthday and must guiltily overcompensate the next year.

But hey, at least he’s getting an iPad.

Jammie Karlman is the entertainment editor for the Chico Enterprise-Record. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter @JammieKarlman

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4 Responses to In Hindsight: Happiness in birthdays

  1. Pogi boy says:

    Jammie is crying because she wanted to stick her nose in the cake but we wouldn’t let her…trust me, i was there.


  2. Stoopy poopy, it’s because Jofe blew out my candle! Although from the looks of your face, you probably helped her.

  3. CC says:

    Hahaha! I love this. It made me laugh

  4. Thanks! Although I find birthdays seem to get more complicated the older I get…

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