Recording memories for future generations
Photo: Mary V. Danielsen

Celebrating birthdays with a life story

Photo: Mary V. Danielsen

Birthdays are a celebration of your life. They mark another year in your life story.  Consider using family birth dates as opportunities to record bits of personal history for your family.

Let me share a personal story with you. It sparked a bunch of ideas on how to record life stories – even short ones – at milestone dates.

In books, Bibles and drawers throughout my house I have more than 30 birthday cards given to me by my mother each year on my birthday. The paper card itself is of little significance to me. It is the hand written note inside each card that I cherish and reread throughout the years. It’s my mother’s handwriting I preserve. Over the years I’ve spread these notes out throughout the house so that I will always be pleasantly surprised by Mom’s love at random times.

Each year, Mom takes a moment to tell me how much I mean to her, how blessed and lucky she feels to be my mother and how she wishes me all the health and happiness for the coming year. Sometimes she will note something I am trying to accomplish in my life. She does this for me and my eight brothers and sisters every year. While I think of myself as a good daughter, I’m no door prize. I am so deeply and spiritually thankful, however, that Mom views motherhood as such a gift that she marks each of our birthdays with a little life story.

Two years ago, when she was 89 years old, she sent me a beautifully penned handwritten note on pink paper telling me about the day I was born. Her memory amazes me. My siblings tell me they all received a similar note that year.


March 25, 2010

Mary dearest –

Let me tell you about the first day of your life:

You were born of March 25, 1963, the Fest of the Annunciation, a Marion feast day and joyous.

You are the eighth of nine children and our fifth daughter – loved and welcomed at once!

As labor started at home we alerted Dr. S. Paul Coccia, our family physician, who had also delivered your brother Kenny in 1961. We met Dr. Coccia at St. Peters Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. and expected my usual normal delivery. However, a breech delivery was looming and a quick delivery was not expected. Dr. Coccia, always respected by the staff, remained calm and assured. In fact, he decided to leave the labor room and have a cup of tea, also reassuring me that he would be nearby and would check my progress.

No sooner had he left the room than you were on your way to join your family. However, you were in a breech position. With great skill, as reported by the staff, Dr. Coccia turned you around and you arrived in normal position – beautiful, normal, and precious!

An adoring family welcomed you home a few days later, and throughout the years you have been loved, respected and a beautiful daughter – a talented, loving person as well as a fine mother, wife, and daughter. 

I am ever grateful.

Love, Mom 


While I always joke that I was born backward, late and on a full moon, I cried when I read the note. From my mother’s heart to my hands came the story of my beginning.

When researching our family histories we always want to know where our story begins. It begins on your birthday.


The photo above is the earliest memory my mother has of her birthday: Her fifth birthday party. She is front and center at the family dining table, which still exists. Her baby brother Louis J. Camuti Jr. is being held behind her on the left by Nonna (Biggi) Landi. My grandmother, Alexandra Landi Camuti, 30, is standing third to the right from the birthday girl.

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