Happy birthday Vinnie. Veni, Vidi, Vici …Risi

Born on an icy morning just after midnight, my son Vinnie brought into this world a kind and loyal heart, a goofy smile and the most elastic ears we’d ever seen.

Veni, Vidi, Vici, Risi. He came, he saw, he conquered, he laughed.

He made us laugh too. Fearless in pursuit of contagious joy, Vinnie leaped happily over creative challenges and eagerly transformed himself into countless silly characters. His high school id photo became famous for its sheer absurdity as, quicker than a hapless photographer’s monotoned word “smile,” Vinnie arranged his hair and face into that of a middle-aged sit com character.

He countered the hi-jinks that occasionally got him into trouble with a genuine sweetness that made it hard for parental anger to stick.  He made us laugh.

The third of four children, he made his presence known, jumping uninvited and occasionally unnoticed into class, team and group photos with such regularity that we have a whole collection of “and there’s Vinnie” photos. Our oldest daughter Katherine’s sixth grade soccer team photo? And there, front and center, stood Vinnie.

He made us laugh.

The last second jump in became such a habit for him that I’m sure families all over Northeast Wisconsin, on closer review, have an inexplicable gap-toothed, spiky haired little boy grinning at them from their vacation photos.

Vinnie grew up within the safe phalanx of family, and in a neighborhood enviably full of similarly aged boys. He and his pals Jonathon, John, Bruce, Alex, Alex and Mitch enjoyed an old-fashioned, ghost-in-the-graveyard, sledding-in-the-park, come-home-when-the-street-lights-come-on kind of childhood.

They made us laugh.

Today our skinny Vinnie turns 21-years old, a legal adult who will toast the occasion with copious amounts of black coffee and celebrate by writing a term paper and preparing for two more finals.

On Friday, though, he’ll cut a cake with all of us — grandparents, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles. We’ll raise a glass and marvel at the swift passage of time. We’ll honor a young man of integrity and class and we’ll be grateful for the consistent gift of Vinnie:

He makes us laugh.

I’m including this clip of three-year old Vinnie on a spontaneous visit to Santa. In it he asks for presents for his brother and sister. To date he remains their biggest fans. He used to happily jump in the car with me for a five-hour drive to watch his brother play football and he cheerfully offers to drive his sister back to her Chicago apartment, three hours out of his way.

Charlie, Vinnie and Charlie McCarthy
Vinnie played Charlie McCarthy to his older brother Charlie’s Edgar Bergen in the famous Franklin Grade School Talent Show of 1997.
Vinnie and Molly's first ice cream cone
Molly enjoyed her first ice cream cone courtesy of her brother Vinnie. Note the sweaty hair on Molly. I remember the circumstances of this photo vividly as we were making our annual 14-hour drive home from Pennsylvania when our air conditioning broke during a heat wave. We pulled into a truck stop to catch our breath and treat ourselves to ice cream.
Vinnie at Katherine's birthday party
This is a shot of Katherine’s nine-year old birthday party, a Little House on the Prairie themed event. We thought we had snapped a Vinnie clear shot until we looked closer. Check out the grinning farm hand second row, second from left.
Vinnie Charlie and Vince Pop Warner
He jumped into the frame here too,with his brother Charlie and Pop Warner Coach Vince. I love this shot, though, because if you look closely, they’re all holding hands.
vinnie pj
High school Vinnie wasted no opportunity to leap into the air. (He also wasted few opportunities to wear my clothes. Here he is in my pink jammies during “Lovestruck Week.”)
Six-year old Vinnie demonstrates the impressive elasticity of his ears.
Six-year old Vinnie demonstrates the impressive elasticity of his ears.
Vinnie the soccer playa
He turned out to be more of a football player than soccer stud, but how cute is this little winking charmer?
Here is Vinnie's high school ID photo in which he takes great liberties with a gullible photographer.
Here is Vinnie’s high school ID photo in which he takes great liberties with a gullible photographer.
Last year Vinnie had shoulder surgery and I expected to find him wearing a demure hospital gown when I found him in the recover room. Instead, I found Batman, which is appropriate for a young man who, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, still says he wants to be a super hero.
Last year Vinnie had shoulder surgery and I expected to find him wearing a demure hospital gown when I met him in the recover room. Instead, I found Batman, which is appropriate for a fellow who, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, still says he wants to be a super hero.

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