Every few months I entertain at the monthly birthday party for a local retirement home. A few residents can move about on their own but most are in wheelchairs and need two hearty hands to push them to the party room. Still more arrive from “memory care” and often sit there glassy-eyed and motionless. Until the music starts. Then something happens that is kind of a miracle. Bodies come alive. Just a little. For a little while. I see a shimmer of life come into their eyes and maybe a foot tapping along. Some go all rock ‘n roll and start clapping and singing along. However this musical alchemy appears, I’m grateful to see it.
Then we acknowledge the birthday revelers. After all this celebration is for them. I read their names from a list as the sheet cake, decorated with swirls of green and pink icing, is hoisted before them and their picture is taken. The first on the list is Claire. Her name has a big “108” next to it. I am almost ready to introduce “Claire, in Room 108,” when the assistant, dizzy with excitement, proclaims that Claire is 108 years old!
Claire is the oldest person I have ever met. And I have met a lot of older people but she takes the cake. No pun. The only words I can muster after I learn 108 is NOT her room number are not especially inspired… “What vitamins do you take, darlin'”? Because Claire is beautiful and doesn’t look a day over 75. Granted she is confined to a wheelchair where she lists to one side as an aid gently spoons birthday cake into her mouth. But she is still here, breathing and showing us what life looks like on this day, in this place, at this age.
I wrote a song about birthdays. These kind of birthdays…where we get more reflective than exhilarated. When the specter of time passing begins to weigh a little heavier on our hearts. We may celebrate “another spin around the sun” but as the years fly by, it strikes me that every day is a kind of birthday and good enough reason to say “thank you” in some way or another.
“And Happy Birthday To You” is one of the lucky thirteen tunes on my new ukulele CD, Smile, Smile, Smile.” My buddy, Craig Fundyga, adds just the right splash of drums AND vibes to give this song a sassy island vibe. And with the ukulele and bass, it’s a real “feel-good” ode to, shall we say, mortality. Yes I’m adding one more song to the pantheon of birthday tunes but this one has an added caveat: “The more candles on your cake, the brighter you light shines.”
So shine on…
The music and artwork are now at the CD processing plant in New Jersey. I think I love New Jersey. Hopefully I will have the album in hand by early July. “Smile, Smile, Smile” will be available for sale on my website and online stores like iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby later in the summer. I will keep you posted.