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One Photo: One Story; Birthday Thoughts

I am humbled by all of your birthday wishes today.

I thank you for allowing me to feel so very blessed on this day.

On most birthdays, I try to ignore the fact that I am another year older. I get uncomfortable during the moments when people are singing Happy Birthday to me. I literally cannot wait until the song is over so the attention is on eating the cake.

I tried to ignore it again this year.

This year I was surprised by emotion. Damn you emotion. Damn you.

I thought about my Mom today and how she must have been feeling on this day so many years ago. The anticipation over and joy that I was finally here.

I had the desire to call her. She left us though in 2005. Called home to God.

There we go again. Emotion.

Blasted Emotion!

Give me a second here…..

As I was composing myself, I remembered a photo of my first birthday. December 14, 1962.

It’s my aunt Terry, and cousin Michael singing Happy Birthday. A typical first birthday party complete with some serious cake smashing.

The second photo is a bit mysterious. I called Dad.

We connected three times. I could hear in the background that there was commotion wherever he was. He tried talking but the connection was lousy, I yelled into the phone “Call me back”. I hung up.

I studied the photograph.

We are in our home on Dewitt Avenue in Belleville, New Jersey. I’m in my high chair, Dad is handing me a rubber duck as I hold a wad of cash. My cousin Mike his eyeing the money. My father has a black eye. Wait.


Dad calls back. “Is today your Birthday”? He asks.

“Yes it is Pop, which is why I’m calling”.

“Well Happy Birthday.” Dad said.

So I begin, “ Dad why on my first birthday did you have a black eye”?


“A what?” He whispers.

“A black eye Dad. Why did you have a black on on my first birthday?’


“Hey kid, I’m sorry about the phone before, I was at the rosary with three of my lady friends and John wanted me to sit with him but there weren’t enough chairs.”

“Dad! Why did you have a black eye on my first birthday?” I ask for the third time.

Very slowly he said, “Well it’s quite possible. There may have been a situation or two.”

More quiet.

I wait.

“Maybe your mother gave it to me or your grandmother, she could hit!” He laughed.

Dad? I ask again.

“Forget it, It was a long time ago.” He snaps.

“Okay then it was nice to see the photo Pop”.

“Well Happy Birthday, Mark. God Bless you.” He adds.

“Hey Dad, one more question.”


“Who were the three ladies at the Rosary”?

“Don’t be a wise-guy”. He shot back.

I snuck one more question in before he hung up.

“What happened to the cash?”


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