Today, my youngest sister is celebrating a birthday milestone. Within the next month, three more of my siblings will blow out the candles on their cake.
We Heberts have always celebrated birthdays in a big way, mostly because there were seven children, and a birthday was the one day we could claim for ourselves.
Holidays, like Halloween and Easter, were shared, and we all got the same amount of loot.
But birthdays – those were special.
I still picture us as energetic kids, plastic streamers flying from our bicycle handlebars as we raced to the neighborhood swim spot.
The Baker Estates pool was our favorite summer hangout. All of us were expert swimmers, and my brothers could do back flips, half gainers and jackknives all day long off the diving board.
We moved through the different cycles of life together – graduations, dating, marriage, families. Our children were born months apart so there was always a cousin to play with.
As our children grew up, we passed our childhood traditions on to them. There were Easter egg hunts, barbecues and crawfish boils and the never-ending basketball game in our parents’ driveway.
Then there came a time when the nephews started beating their uncles, and the driveway became center court for both nieces and nephews with the aunts and uncles on the patio, yelling plays and encouragement from the sidelines.
We celebrated high school graduations, then college graduations, engagement parties and weddings.
Nieces and nephews added children to the mix, and jobs, moves and time with our grandchildren and sons- and daughters-in-law pulled the seven in different directions.
Phone calls, text messaging and the internet helped us stay connected over the years but what hasn’t changed is celebrating our birthdays.
Our birthday traditions, friendly jabs and teasing have sustained the seven Hebert siblings for over six decades. I don’t know what I’d do without my siblings, and today, on my sister Donna’s birthday, is a good time to let them know how special they are.
Brother Jimmy is the most genuinely nice person I know, a master dentist and a sounding board without ever judging. He laughs at himself and makes us all comfortable when we make a mistake.
Brother Johnny’s unshakable faith inspires others on his radio broadcast, and his true voice accompanied by his playing the guitar to songs he’s written is always achingly beautiful.
Sister Diane is confident, extremely smart, beautiful and the most outspoken and honest woman I know. I wish every day I could be as dynamic, energetic and selfless as she is.
She’s always the first to call on our actual birthday, and it’s always a joke when our brother Jimmy calls the day before. Her reply: “Doesn’t count. You have to call on the actual day.”
Brother Joey is calmly patient with a dry and quick wit balanced by wood-working expertise and a selfless giving nature. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him angry or heard him say an unkind word about anyone, not even ex-LSU football coach Nick Saban.
Sister Donna is not only beautiful but she’s smart, sassy and not afraid of challenges. She can still turn heads and she’s artistic in everything she does. Whenever I need to vent, she listens without judging.
Our baby brother, Jeff, is a brilliantly gifted artist whose work deserves to be on display. His introspective and wise side balances out one of the wittiest and funniest people I’ve ever met. Plus he’s a fabulous dancer.
Their spouses are equally wonderful, and there’s no line between in-laws and siblings.
Life’s full of sadness and unexpected calamities. Never miss an opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary people in your life, especially on their birthday.
Denise’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.