Christmas Day 2007. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Puerto Rico. It’s me and Rob, Rob’s parents and his brother and sister in law. Rob gets up to go to the bathroom, and Russ, Rob’s brother, calls the waiter over. “It’s my brother’s birthday today,” he says, “so do you think I could have the waiters bring dessert with a candle in it and have them sing?”
The largest slice of cake any of us has ever seen arrives with a steak knife stabbed through it and a birthday candle in it. A group of waiters crowds around our table singing “Happy Birthday” at the top of their lungs, and everyone at the table joins in while Rob, whose birthday is in October, shakes his head and laughs.
This year, we were one night into our vacation when Rob got his brother back. We sang Happy Birthday to Russ on the outdoor patio of a seafood restaurant, and a year long score was settled. Russ, who was born in August, glared over his “birthday” candle and smirked, and we all knew it was war.
Night two was Rob’s “birthday”, of course, orchestrated by Russ again, and I assumed that was the end; they’d each gotten each other once this year. On night three, I had NO clue. None. Russ said afterwards that I looked like was “three minutes from peeing myself” because I was laughing so hard I started to cry and could barely pull it together long enough to blow out my candle. Even better, the enthusiastic waiters finished “Happy Birthday” and did a second verse in Spanish: Feliz Cumpleanos. I’m keeping the candle forever.
This is the family I married into.