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Holding it All Together-My Unfortunate Birthday

By Amy McCollom
There will be no balloons, streamers, party hats, or banners.  There will be no fanfare, surprise party, adoring guests, or pretty wrapped packages.  Shoot, there might not even be a cake. Basically, there will be no celebration, really.  My birthday is like a dud firecracker, a small poof of smoke and maybe one sparkle in the sky.  To say the least, it has always been very disappointing.

My unfortunate birthday is on January 8.  That is exactly two weeks after Christmas, the mother of all celebrations.  It is exactly one week after New Year’s, which is also my baby brother’s birthday.  By the time my birthday gets here, no one is in the mood to rev up for yet another celebration.  Everyone is tired; they are tired from the stress of the holidays, from all the work that went with pulling off the best Christmas for their family, and they are just tired of celebrating.

I understand that.  I am tired too, by the second week in January.  Even I want to relax and have a week off. I am tired of cooking, baking, wrapping, giving, spending, smiling, thanking, and singing.  The Christmas holidays are not for wimps. It’s like a marathon of celebrating that begins the day after Thanksgiving and doesn’t stop until January 2.  That takes a whole lot out of a person. I get that.

Not only is my birthday poorly placed on the calendar; January 8 is also my husband’s birthday.  He is two years older than me, though. John is so easy-going that it doesn’t bother him not to have a big celebration or tons of gifts or adoring friends and family.  He is happy with a steak dinner at home, and hugs all around. He is a good and humble man.

My birthday was actually supposed to be sometime in March.  I was born about two months early. I was a small three and a half pounds at birth, and stayed in the hospital for several weeks.  So, it’s my mom’s fault that my birthday is early. She told me that she smoked and drank the whole time she was pregnant; she said in the mid 1960’s, no one knew that was bad for the health of the mother and baby.  My sister, who was born eighteen months before me, weighed only 1 lb. and 11 ounces. She set records as being the smallest baby ever born at Union Hospital that survived. She was deemed the “little angel.” Who could top that?

Growing up, I hated my birthday.  Sometimes I didn’t get a gift, because I was told at Christmas, “this is for your birthday too.”  Other times, my parents would just hold back a Christmas present and give it to me two weeks later, “for my birthday.”  I was in junior high before I realized there was such a thing as birthday wrapping paper. I thought you were just supposed to use Christmas wrapping paper for everything.

A lot of times, I didn’t get a birthday cake.  We had so many sweets around the house during the holidays, why make another cake?  My family would take the leftovers from New Year’s and my brother’s birthday and put it together and stick some candles on it.  I usually just kept my mouth shut and went along with it, even though I felt left out and unimportant. I knew that Christmas was a big expense and didn’t want my parents to have to spend any more money on someone like me.

I tried one year to move my birthday to July 8.  I told my parents to skip my birthday and just celebrate it in July. But by July, no one remembered the date switch, so I didn’t get a birthday that year at all.

At this point in my life, I don’t even know how I am supposed to feel on my birthday.  After putting on birthday parties for all my kids and my parents and siblings over the years, I put on a birthday party for my husband on Jan. 8.  I make the cake, get the presents, hang the decorations and all. I don’t know what it’s like for someone to throw a party for me.

I know at least four other people who also have January 8 birthdays.  Although they have never told me, I bet they feel a little of what I feel.  January birthdays are just disappointing.

So, I said all of that to say this; if you know someone with a January birthday, be extra kind to them.  Let them know how much you appreciate and care about them. No one should ever have to make their own birthday cake.  It’s a very lonely feeling. Everyone deserves to feel special on their birthday.

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