“What do you want for Christmas?” is Mama’s most asked question this time of the year.
I never know what to reply.
Sometimes, I want something fanciful and full of whimsy, like an at home spa set; others, I want something practical, like new pots and pans.
This year, I have my eyes set on one of those fantastic air-fryer things. I am all about something fried, but know I need to eat healthier. My jeans will be grateful.
“You know what I want? I want what everyone else born in December wants,” I began. “I want someone to remember my birthday that just happens to be the week before Christmas.”
That’s just asking for way too much evidently.
Granny never really felt much sympathy for me. Her birthday always fell on or around Mother’s Day. And in Granny’s mind, mothers were right up there with Baby Jesus when it came to being holy and sacred, especially when said mother was her.
“How’d you like it to grow up and your birthday was on Mother’s Day so you wasn’t even thought about?” she asked me one day when I complained. “And now, y’all think you can get me one gift that is for both – y’all some ungrateful folks, that’s what y’all are. I’m gonna start that nonsense with y’all.
“Bobby’s cake is gonna be whatever is made for Thanksgiving, maybe some leftover mashed taters; your Granddaddy’s birthday is gonna be rolled into Halloween; and your Mama can celebrate her birthing freedom with the dadblamed Fourth of July.”
“You are being a bit overdramatic,” I said.
I lived to write those words today.
The Redhead Prime looked at me and said, “Overdramatic my tail. You think you the only cussed one to be born near another holiday is all I am a-saying. Get over it and be grateful you get a gift at all – for either of ‘em.”
Was it too much to ask for my birthday to be remembered? I mean, I was a kid and some of us do like to feel special on the day we were born.
But my birthday was always kind of overlooked or tossed aside like wrapping paper torn off the box.
When I was in school, we were usually dismissed for Christmas break at noon on my birthday, after the chorus gave a small concert.
I was in that chorus, along with about a dozen other kids who signed up for it to get out of attending P.E. I had to wear a skirt – oh, the horrors! — and stand in front of an auditorium full of my peers and their parents while singing Christmas carols off key. There was no time for the cookies. No special announcement that the chubby second soprano was celebrating her birthday.
When the last sugar cookie was gone, everyone scattered through the doors, leaving me standing in the hall with Granny.
“You ready to get home? I gotta get back to work.”
No party at school, no birthday lunch – my birthday was lost in the shuffle.
“Get your gift out from under the tree,” Granny would announce when we’d get home.
“Not that one,” she’d say when I would pick up a nice sized box. “No, put that one back, too. Get that little one back there in the corner. That one. Happy birthday.”
“It’s wrapped in Christmas paper you saved from last year,” I would say.
“Ain’t you lucky – I saved money on paper so I could get you something nice.”
“What is it?” I asked, shaking the small box.
“Open it and see.”
It was footy pajamas; just what every kid wanted. Or long johns, or a gown – something warm, practical, that would have me sweating in my sleep.
And Granny would remind me on a daily basis when she was a kid, she would have been happy to have it.
“You know what we got for our birthdays?” she’d ask.
“A stick and an acorn to hit. So, zip it.”
All I wanted – and it may have been asking too much – was for my birthday to be separated from Christmas. To have a gift wrapped in birthday paper, rather than something with Santa, wreaths, or silver bells.
And for it to be an intentional gift, not an afterthought gift that was given from the pile under the tree.
I was shorted a gift twice—one for the birthday gift I didn’t get and one for the Christmas present given in place of it.
Mama has tried to make up for it, either by giving me my ‘birthday’ in some odd month before or after but forgets what she gave me when the day rolls around.
“What did I give you again?” she will ask.
“You gave me some money and told me to get something nice with it.”
“What did you get?”
“With all of it?”
“Do you not know how much Tide is now? It’d be cheaper to buy new clothes.”
This year, she forgot she had already given me a check and tried to offer me another one.
I should have taken it.
If my birthday is that forgettable, maybe I should get a double gift; it would undoubtedly make up for the non-birthdays of my youth.
“Someone got some mail,” Lamar said the other day, handing me a card. “I bet that is something for your birthday.”
Well, kind of. It was a birthday card.
At least my insurance agent remembers.