50th Birthday in the Missouri Ozarks

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on November 15, 2009

My entire family treated me to the best birthday of my life in October. It was number 50, but because of everything that’s happened this year it meant far more to me than just a round number. We went to cabins in the Missouri Ozarks (where my family used to vacation when I was a child) and just enjoyed being together for four glorious peak-of-Autumn days. All of my siblings and their families came from all over the country: Kathleen and her husband Richie from Las Vegas; Tim and his wife Julie from St. Louis; Brian, his wife Sue and their kids Timothy, Julia and Elizabeth from Philadelphia; Ellen and her partner Stacy from Los Angeles. Meanwhile, my lifelong buddy Dave Noland drove down from Kansas City to surprise me…and my friends Paul and Debbie Conklin drove to St. Louis on the last day of the trip to meet up with us, carve up Halloween pumpkins and watch the World Series on TV. You’ll see all of their pictures in this video, along with a few vintage photos from my childhood vacations in the very same locale.

The thing I loved best about my birthday: My family made a complete mockery of that stupid “Birthday Song” — which only has only six words. The six words are as follows: “Happy,” “Birthday,” “To,” and “You” repeated endlessly, followed by “Dear,” and “[Whatever Your Name Is]” in the final verse. Just six words. What a dumb song. Why do people sing that song to each other? What does it even mean?

Anyway, they sang it to me every hour on the hour. It was pretty funny.

But on the morning of my birthday, my family all gathered around and sang a REAL birthday song to me. The best birthday song I’ve ever heard. It’s the music that you’ll hear in the accompanying video. And they sang the whole thing, each and every verse, each and every word (way more six). Singing this particular song in this particular situation was my sister-in-law Julie’s idea. She even brought the CD, and cranked it up on the only audio equipment available — a retro alarm clock CD player in  one of the rustic cabins.  Thanks Julie. I love you, and will never forget what you did, even though you made me cry. Just to get back at you, I put it in a video slideshow that will make you cry.


24 Responses

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  1. Patsi Bale Cox said, on November 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Stop making fun of birthday songs Sean! Here’s the one my family sings:

    Today, you’re one year older
    And you’re growing up the way we want you to
    So hurry and cut the cake
    We can hardly wait
    To sing a Happy Birthday song to YOOOOOUUUUU.

    • Dan Tasciotti said, on August 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

      Hi Patsi,

      I recall your family lyric as part of the second verse. Here is the lyric as I remember it:

      Verse 1:

      Today you’re one year older,
      And you’re growing up the way we want you to.
      Now we’ve planned a big surprise,
      Count to three and close your eyes;
      Now look – your friends are waiting here for you…


      Happy Birthday, etc.

      Verse 2:

      Make a wish and blow out the candles,
      Wishes for good boys and girls come true.
      So hurry and cut the cake,
      We can hardly wait,
      As you open your gifts we’ll sing once more to you…


      Happy Birthday, etc.

      • Steve Brock said, on January 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm

        Hello, my name is Steve Brock. You have no idea how happy I am to have found this story. My family has had the same trafition for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately we have lost all media versions of this particular song and have not been able to locate it anywhere. We cant remember the name of the artist or the true name of the song for that matter. Any help would mean a great deal to my family and I. Please feel free to email me at with any information. Thank You.

  2. Robyn said, on November 16, 2009 at 12:08 am

    A belated happy birthday, Sean. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate. Loved seeing your entire family and the old family photos.

  3. Mark said, on November 16, 2009 at 12:23 am

    That’s terrific, Sean. Beautiful area, beautiful family and beautiful sentiment. Happy Birthday.

  4. Barbara Hill Bissonnette said, on November 16, 2009 at 12:47 am


  5. Geri said, on November 16, 2009 at 10:21 am

    My mom and my kids and grandkids and two of my brothers and their families were all smashed into my house this weekend for a pre-Thanksgiving thanksgiving, and we sang the stupid birthday song to my son, who turns 36 today (to my surprise). But we’ve mangled that song since we were all kids and our pet boxer howled along with us. The dog was always the only one on key.
    Sean, I can imagine how terrific it was to be surrounded by the love and idiocyncracies of a big family, and friends to boot. That’s the best gift of all. I loved the pictures, especially the ones of your nephew who looks so much like you did. Happy 50th.

  6. Stockton said, on November 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I know you understand what a wonderful gift the love of a family is. You are truly blessed.

  7. harborwoman said, on November 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Wow! Beautiful man, beautiful family, beautiful place! Happy birthday, Sean Holton! And many more!

  8. Kelly J Fent said, on November 16, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Happy brithday, Sean, a tad late. This was the ultimate Hallmark moment – not to belittle it, in any way. Cry? Absolutely! But it was from the sheer beauty of seeing the progression of life through that slideshow. It was part of my own life flashing before my eyes, having been lucky enough to be there for all those stages of the Holton clan. I mean, all the old pics – I knew you all when! Was relieved to see some of those final shots – wasn’t sure Timothy could actually smile. Heard it was a great time from your brother-from-another-mother, Dave. I know of so few families who love to be around each other – every last one of you – so very much. Are best friends as well as family. Pretty incredible. You are truly blessed.
    Love, Kelly

  9. Mike Griffin said, on November 16, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    The only thing more beautiful than that scenery, Sean, is your family. Happy Birthday, man.

  10. Neely said, on November 16, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    This was really beautiful Sean..It’s great to see you had such a wonderful birthday!!

  11. Molly BB said, on November 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    What a pleasure to watch the video and the young man – I think I’ve figured it out…Timothy? – he looks so much like you, Sean, in your youth. I was happy to see that you are looking very well and the smiles all around showed the fun all of you were having. Family…thank God for family! Bill and I are hosting my family Thanksgiving Day. Glad to see your post. Take care and have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

  12. Chloe said, on November 16, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Happy Birthday Sean. I wish you many more.
    Thanks for sharing that get together with us.

  13. Jamie said, on November 16, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Sean, such a lovely birthday and video. Your family is a true blessing. Now hum the Merry Widow Waltz:

    Happy birthday Happy birthday
    Just for you
    happy birthday happy birthday
    May all your dreams come true

    When you blow out the candles
    May one light stay aglow
    That’s the sunshine of your smile
    Where e’er you go.

  14. patd said, on November 17, 2009 at 7:17 am

    lard, which relative was that handsome bear on the balconey? or was that you with a bad hangover? btw, have a belated six words and many many more.

  15. Katherine Graham Cracker said, on November 17, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Kings and queens and princes too
    Want to wish you all that’s new,
    So what d’ ya say? Hey! Hey!
    It’s your birthday!
    Happy birthday to you!

  16. Pat & Becky said, on November 17, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    What an amazing testament to the power of family. You left us speechless.

    P & B

  17. Tim Holton said, on November 18, 2009 at 11:57 am

    The gathering place was beyond description, the celebration was almost surreal and your recounting of it was perfect in timing and grace. You and Joni struck every note and chord with incomparable precision in telling a story of life’s progression and new beginning (as seen in the pictures of yourself preceeding Timothy @ apprx ten). Sean you’ve demonstrated superior journalistic talent through the years (and have the hardware to prove it) but this one shows us your soul. HOME RUN!
    Thanks buddy. I love you’

  18. Kathryn Quigley said, on November 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Happy Birthday to you!
    Happy Birthday to you!
    You look like a monkey and
    You smell like one toooooo!

    See? I am rockin’ it 5th grade style.

    I love that your nephew is a “mini-Sean.”

  19. Rachel (Henry) Redmond said, on November 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Happy Birthday!
    What a beautiful song!
    I’ve been praying for you, and will always…

  20. Chop-line said, on November 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Loved the slide show and loved to see you enjoying time with your family. What a great way to celebrate your 50th. Hope your energy is back to stay.

  21. rebeany said, on December 4, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    fabulous. if you liked 50…wait til you see 51! thanks for writing about it. i smiled the entire post and video.

  22. Colorado Bob said, on December 24, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Merry Christmas L.L.

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