Today (Christmas Eve) is my mother’s birthday.
(Happy Birthday, Ma!!)
I mention this only because the way we used to celebrate this important day in her life exemplified why those of us who have the mischance to be born in the last month of the year hate having birthdays in the last month of the year.
We were always up rather early, even though it’s a holiday, because there were so many tasks as yet not done.
After a rushed breakfast of pop-tarts and coffee, we’d run to the store for some last minute stuff – like wrapping paper (because the kids used twice as much as they need, so those six rolls I thought would last us for two years barely made it through half the presents), tape (see above), pumpkin pie spice (because we never had any – don’t ask me why), and those other necessities you never think of until you actually have to use them.
When we finally got a place to park, after we’d circled the parking lot about 1,000 times, we’d rush in, find what we need, and spend the next hour or so in line, wishing the people in front of us with baskets piled high understood the concept of “Ten items or less.”
We might get time to stuff a hamburger down our throats before we went home, but we never counted on it. Reasons: see afore-mentioned long lines and indecisive people.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wrapping presents, making pies, hauling the 30-pound turkey out of the freezer so it would thaw, chopping vegetables, making several more trips to the store to deal with unexpected guests who brought presents by (and of course must be reciprocated).
Mom’s birthday dinner, the one meal she should get to choose, was always hot dogs. It’s always been that way, because on Christmas Eve, the kitchen is full of turkey innards and pie fixins, and who wants to cook anyway? Even after my kids were older and wanted to to spoil grandma, the lack of time set the menu.
After dinner, and a last-minute, store-bought pathetic little cake with one candle – no need calling the fire marshall on Christmas Eve – we got to her present. Yep. That’s right. Present in the singular tense. After all, tomorrow she’ll be opening another one, won’t she?
This present, wrapped in Christmas wrapping, because we could never find any birthday wrap and I’d already made too many trips to the store, occupied her attention for about 10 minutes – not because it’s not worth more or she doesn’t love it, but because it’s the night before Christmas, and there are still chores to be done.
Hanging stockings, seeing Christmas lights, midnight candlelight service, getting the kids to calm down, write Santa’s note, and go to bed (with firm warning NOT to wake the adults up before daylight – preferably 10 a.m.), putting the big presents together, watching daddy gulp down the soggy milk and stale cookies so the kids know Santa actually came, and then it’s bedtime.
Hell of a celebration for a birthday, huh?
Even those of us whose days don’t come the day before or after hate having December birthdays. Let me count the ways …
Most people, in their pre-Christmas frugality, believe we won’t notice we got only one or two birthday presents, because we’ll make up for it at Christmas. The only thing wrong with that is, on Christmas Day, we’re usually short-changed again, because everyone figures we just got a bunch of birthday presents.
That’s if our birthdays are remembered at all, because after Thanksgiving, it seems people get this tunnel vision that precludes anything not Christmas-related.
That’s bad enough, but I personally get tired of red and green wrapping paper, stars and angels, and all that Christmas-themed stuff. I’m not alone. My middle threatened violence the year she turned 13 year if we decorated the house in Christmas for her birthday party.
And, of course, there’s that sharing thing. Admit it, most of us really like having that one special day when we are the center of attention. Even us “grown-ups” get a kick out of that. And December is all about a special birthday, when a baby’s birth captures the attention of a large part of the world. That kind of shoves the rest of us December babies out of the limelight. And that’s the part that really sucks.