The Biggest Tree In The ‘Hood

IMG_3718When we moved to New Albany in 1996, we planted a small pine tree in our back yard.  At that time, our neighborhood was basically a bare expanse with some houses here and there, and the little conifer was part of an effort to add some texture and definition to our neck of North of Woods.

Every year since then, without fail, the little pine tree has grown a few feet.  Now it is a little tree no longer.  I’m not sure exactly how tall it has grown — 40 feet?  50 feet? — but it is the tallest tree in the ‘hood, and towers over our back yard.  It’s hard to believe it once was little, but time has a way of having that kind of effect on things.

It works with birthdays, too — you remember the little sapling, and the next thing you know it is fully developed, mature, and holding its own in the forest of life.

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IMG_1157Happy Birthday was sung with gusto, JT’s pizza and chicken wings were gobbled, white cake with white frosting was consumed, birthday presents were opened, Andrew struck his album cover pose, and a good time was had by all.  Happy birthday, Mom!

A Birthday, And A New Beginning

On March 20, 1930, Agnes Catherine Neal, the matriarch of our Columbus Webner clan, made her squalling debut into the world in Akron, Ohio.  Today, she celebrates her 83rd birthday — and also a new chapter in a long life well lived.

00020413The last year has not been easy for her.  Several months ago, Mom had a severe stroke.  Fortunately, my sister was present when it happened, recognized that a stroke was occurring, and got Mom to the hospital for immediate care and treatment.  Still, the stroke had devastating consequences, leaving Mom’s left side weak and non-responsive.

Since she left the hospital, Mom has been in a rehabilitation facility, following that winding road to recovery that is different for every person who must follow it.  She has worked to reacquire the trunk, leg, and arm strength to sit upright, pivot, put her feet on the floor, and get out of bed, to use a walker, and to do what most of us do without a second thought.  She has made real and encouraging progress, and we will keep following that winding road to see where it leads us.

Earlier this week, Mom moved into a new place where she can live more independently but with plenty of people nearby to help her when she needs it.  It’s a snug little spot that fits her well.  She’s back in her favorite chair, surrounded by her furniture, her family photographs, and other comforts of home.  This afternoon we all will gather there, to sing Happy Birthday and eat some pizza and cake and mark the occasion.

Happy birthday, Mom!  We love you, and we’re proud of you!

Big Bro B-Day

Today is the birthday of my big brother, UJ.  Born in ’56, he turns 56 today, so there is a certain symmetry to the occasion.

Some of you may wonder how UJ celebrates his birthdays.  After all, how do you properly commemorate a special day like a birthday when you already seem to spend much of your time tanned and shirtless in some exotic warm weather location, gambling and getting kissed on the cheek by a woman in a bikini — and occasionally holding some form of shellfish with your head apparently framed by a halo, besides?

I don’t quite know how to answer that question.  All I can do is wish my big brother a very happy birthday, and invite the other loyal readers of the Webner House blog to join me in conveying heartfelt natal day wishes.

Hitting The Double-Nickel

Today I turn 55.  I’ve reached the mid-point of my sixth decade on the planet.  As Dad would have said, it beats the alternative.

55 is not a bad number.  It’s a speed limit, sure, but other than that it’s a number I’ve always liked.  It’s a good round number that looks good on a sign.  It has the benefit of alliteration and fricatives. It’s fun to say.

It’s the number Russell wore when he played high school football, and I enjoyed watching number 55 out on the gridiron for the Vikings, making his blocks and leading runners downfield.

It’s also the number that features prominently in Ol’ 55, a song written by Tom Waits that, as performed by the Eagles, is one of my favorites.  And, in fact, the lyrics to that tune are apt today:

Well, my time went so quickly
I went lickety-splitly out to my ol’ fifty-five
As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy
God knows I was feeling alive

 

Who Wrote Happy Birthday?

Spring is the time of birthdays in the Webner family.  Today is the birthday of one very special person, and Happy Birthday will be sung with gusto.

Everyone knows Happy Birthday and has sung it hundreds of times — for family members, schoolmates, co-workers, and friends — but who wrote it?

The melody for Happy Birthday comes from the children’s song Good Morning to All, written in 1893 by American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill.  Patty was a school principal in Kentucky, and the song was designed to be sung by schoolchildren.  The lyrics were:  “Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good morning, dear Children, Good Morning to All.”  It’s easy to imagine a classroom of rambunctious turn-of-the-century kids singing that song at the start of the school day.

At some point lost in the mists of time — but probably not too long after Good Morning to All was first sung — someone substituted the familiar lyrics of Happy Birthday.  The combination of lyrics and melody apparently first appeared in print in 1912.  Happy Birthday was copyrighted more than two decades later, in 1935.  The validity of its copyright has been the subject of legal commentary and even a mention in the dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court case Eldred v. Ashcroft, but the copyright issue has caused filmmakers whose movies include a birthday scene to either pay a royalty or substitute For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow instead.

Most people consider Happy Birthday to be the best known and most frequently sung song in the world.  It’s fun to belt out, too.