“Happy Birthday! This is for Christmas and your birthday!”

28 Dec

Today is my birthday – that’s right, three days after Christmas. I also share this day with Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, and President Woodrow Wilson. Not bad company, but I bet every one of us would say that we’ve been overshadowed by Jesus. You know that expression, “Give it over to the Baby Jesus” – ? Well, those of us born around this time have given away any hope of making our special day into a something special. I mean, the biggest holiday of the year just occurred three days before. Everyone is exhausted by gift giving and rich meals and merry-making. Our birthday becomes, at best, an afterthought. At worst, it’s just forgotten. The good thing is that you learn very quickly just how insignificant birthdays really are – which is admittedly a difficult concept to grasp when young, but when you’re turning 61 – as I am – it’s wonderful. You just don’t get bothered all that much by the number change. Of course, there are the usual complaints that any of us born around the holidays have – the single present syndrome, to name the first. So often you’d hear, “This is your Christmas AND your birthday gift.” Sometimes even your grandparents try to get you to fall for that one. The philosophy behind this concept is the implication that a great deal of extra money has been lavished on your gift, and that is why there is only one. But that seldom happens; it’s usually the same old crap you would have gotten anyway, with the difference being split between you and Christmas. There may be a winner in this, but it seldom is the birthday boy or girl. There was one time, however, when even my aunts and uncles got together to furnish my new bedroom in our new family house. For some reason (probably because it was the cheapest thing in the store) my mother had bought a twin bed that had a wagon wheel headboard. Consequently, everyone decided that this was to be the theme of my birthday. I received a pair of fringed parchment lampshades which were set upon buffalo horn lamp bases, a pair of bronze bookends depicting ranch hands sitting on a split rail fence (it still gives me the shivers), and sundry other Western-themed pillows, bed-linens, and toys. However, even at so tender an age my tastes ran to the sleek lines of Eero Saarinen or Charles and Ray Eames – never to “Wagon Train”. It was hard work for a five year old to conjure up a grateful smile for that stuff, not so much because of the what it was, but for the vivid demonstration of the complete misperception my family had of me. I had never once indicated a preference for six-shooters, cowboys, or rodeos. (Indians were another matter; on my mother’s side we had Choctaw blood, and I was quite proud of that fact. But even them my personal inclinations ran to the Meso-American cultures like the Aztecs, Toltecs, and Mayas. I suppose that you can’t furnish a child’s bedroom around sacrificial daggers designed to rip beating hearts out of sacrificial victims – more’s the pity.) My mom tried in her way to make my birthday special, using it as an excuse to rip down all the holiday décor, saying that she wanted my birthday to remain separate from Christmas. I suspect, however, it was her own loathing of the holiday season (see my previous post, “Two Christmas Trees”) that prompted the swift denuding of our house. In the twinkling of an eye gone were the lights, the tree, the tinsel, the garlands. Other families on the block sometimes kept their decorations up for a month. Not ours. Come December 26, Hurricane Mom had swept it clean. But you know what? I’m glad that my birthday falls at this time, for you learn quickly to lower your expectations. Consequently, anything that happens remains totally unexpected. These days, my birthday extends to almost the end of January. The only thing I really want is to spend time with my friends anyway, and that’s the gift they tend to give me. “Let’s wait until after the holidays,” they say, “and we’ll take you out to dinner.” Fine with me. My actual birth day may be long past – but who cares? Life has taught me from the earliest age to be nothing if not flexible. And if nothing happens, I’m flexible with that, too. Birthdays are highly overrated affairs – and at my age, they’ve become redundant anyway. Been there, done that – sixty-one times.

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18 Responses to ““Happy Birthday! This is for Christmas and your birthday!””

  1. bibliocircus December 29, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    Cool post. Happy Birthday buddy!

  2. Lorna J December 29, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Ahhh…I think that all us “post Christmas, pre New Year” babies are clearly marvellous, creative, literary geniuses!!! I hope you had a fab day yesterday & that the extended celebrations go on…..and on….AND on! Cheers to the next one!! 🙂

    • Brad Geagley December 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

      Lorna, Absolutely! Happy, happy to you to!
      Brad

  3. minnesotatransplant December 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    As a Dec. 23 baby, I was right with you all the way up to …”It’s wonderful.” I still demand special attention on my birthday, and I just turned 45. Your approach sounds peaceful; maybe I’ll have to work my way to that attitude over the next 15 years.

    • Brad Geagley December 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

      Monica, With age comes grace, or maybe just resignation!
      Happy Birthday, in any case.
      Brad

  4. Jamie Greening December 30, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    yep, my birthday is the 29th of dec. and i am so there with you. i’ve heard that my whole life “here is your birthday and christmas present.” one of these days i’m going to do that to my friends whose birthday is in july. sadly, i’ve replicated the curse as my youngest daughters birthday is the 30th of dec.
    great post! thanks for sharing.

    • Brad Geagley December 30, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

      That’s a great idea Jamie… Thanks for reading. Brad

  5. Jordan & Noelle January 1, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    I think you’re on to something with the whole, meaningless birthday thing. A close friend’s falls on Dec. 7th and for as long as I’ve known him he’s gotten the short end each year. I try to keep mine hidden as much as I can since I’ve never been a big party person myself. Something interesting about the flexibility of birthdays (and possible age measuring itself) can be found when you consider traditional Chinese methods of counting your age. By many Chinese standards, on a baby’s first B-day they are considered two years old since they were conceived and then brought to term in the womb for nine months. And then on Chinese New Year I believe it is also customary for every Chinese person to add on another year to their count, too. Add with that the differences between Lunar and Solar calenders and you’ve got yourself a whole heap of arbitrary ages running around much of Asia. Fun stuff. Nice entry.

    • Brad Geagley January 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      Thanks so much for your considered and wise response. I actually get a kick about telling people how old I am. This age thing is so terrible in our youth-oriented culture – I like to flout the convention and brag about the years I’ve achieved. The Chinese have it right! And so do you.
      Brad

    • Shala Howell January 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      For years a friend of mine refused to tell me the exact date of her birthday because she didn’t want me to feel obliged to give her a gift. She did relent enough to tell me the month. So for years I picked a random day in her birthday month and declared it Liza Day, and wished her a very happy Liza Day, and marked the day with a card or an email or a phone call. (We live thousands of miles apart, so meeting for lunch is not an option.) Last year, the date I picked for Liza Day happened to fall on her actual birthday. At first I was excited to know the date, and resolved to always get it right hereafter, but after reading Brad’s post and your comment, I’m tempted to go back to the random Liza day approach. It felt more celebratory somehow.

  6. Fire Pages January 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I know how you feel Brad. My birthday is 2 days after Christmas. Some people give me two gifts (immediate family), but other family and friends get cheap on me and combine gifts! Lol. I’m your latest Twitter follower, and thanks a bunch for liking my blog post!

    Zee, Fire Pages

  7. Brad Geagley January 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    You bet, Zee. Happy Birthday!

  8. perches January 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    My young kiddo has a late December birthday, so your post was good food for thought. We try to celebrate his bday in early December to keep seperate it from the Christmas frenzy. Thanks for liking my blog post, and especially for a great parenting reminder 🙂

  9. Shala Howell January 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    My mom’s birthday falls on December 29 and up until the year she turned 60 she would insist adamantly upon us (her children) getting her different gifts for her birthday and for Christmas. (We had to atone for all the parents, aunts, uncles and siblings who told her “This is for your birthday and Christmas” during her childhood.)

    Now that she’s – ahem – older than 60 – she has relaxed a bit, and as long as it’s a gift card of a respectable size to a certain bookstore in her area, she will graciously forgive the giver for presenting her birthday gift and her Christmas gift as a single unit on Christmas. (Actually, this year she asked me to present it to her well before Christmas so that she could acquire her books without getting caught up in the day-after-Christmas holiday shopping rush.)

    Love your blog, btw, although I’m laughing out loud so much I’m in danger of distracting The Four-Year-Old from the all-important going to sleep process.

    • Brad Geagley January 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      Shala,
      Please send your mom my regards and a happy birthday. I’m impressed that she trained you guys so well! Does she have a Kindle? You guys could load one with books by authors who share her birthday…
      And thank you, dear reader. You were my 1000 visitor to the site.
      Best,
      Brad

      • Shala Howell January 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

        Congrats on your 1000th visitor. Oh wait, that’s me. 🙂

        My mother is a teacher in her working life and excels at reinforcing preferred behavior in both her students and descendants with a simple eyebrow lift.

        (She has a Nook, which is why the gift cards need to come from a particular bookstore.)

        I love the idea of giving her books from authors with her birthday, and will use it next year. Assuming she hasn’t read them all by then. She’s got a book a day habit.

      • Brad Geagley January 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

        A book a day! She’s an author’s dream!
        Brad

  10. Shoeless January 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    My husband’s birthday is the week before christmas, and he has a brother who has a birthday 3 days before christmas…so I totally understand your pain…and the pain of those around you who must extend the gift-giving. 🙂 It sucks shopping for christmas and birthdays at once!

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