Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Last Month of the Year

After forty of them, I’ve come to love my end-of-the-year birthday. There are a few disadvantages to having your birthday the week before Christmas, but the good far outweighs the bad.

I give my parents credit for making the early years fun. We never set up our Christmas decorations until Christmas eve, so I had a week of full birthday fun. I had normal kids-games-cake-hyperactive birthday parties until I was ten or so, then those morphed into sleepovers with a couple of friends.

Then came my sixteenth birthday. A LOT of my friends had huge parties. I hoped, quietly—no, silently–for a surprise party. When my parents took the family out to eat (a rare treat), I felt sure that the meal was a smokescreen so that friends could fill our house.

Yeah, you know how that story ended.

After that, each year my birthday seemed to coincide with a sibling’s pageant rehearsal or finals or something. My mom always made my special meal—lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and chocolate mousse—and we always celebrated, briefly. By a miracle of scheduling, all four kids would be in the same place at the same time on the evening of eighteenth. And I learned to really appreciate that miracle.

In the “real world” my birthday became the deadline for shipping gifts to family, the kids’ last day of school/class party/pageant, and a day when my husband works frantically so he can take time off over Christmas. But we still have a meal together, and I get my candle in a fruit tart (yum!) or a cannoli (double yum!)—much nicer than lots of (leftover) cake at Christmas time.

My parents and siblings and in-laws call or Skype or email, and friends send their greetings over Facebook. And almost every year, someone unexpected does something unexpectedly sweet.

Somehow, in the process of life reducing my birthday celebration in size and scope, I’ve come to love the streamlined version. By expecting nothing, I’ve been given the gifts of surprise and appreciation. My favorite gifts now are a child with a drawing by my bedside in the early morning or my husband dropping some little fun thing I wanted in my lap when he comes home from work.

And, really, truly, I am so grateful for everyone who remembers. My brain gets too full for any extra this time of year, so I treasure every person who makes room for a thought of my birthday.

I wish I could say I grew into this intentionally, on purpose, or as a conscious act, but in all honesty, I have to say that it happened to me. But can’t we say that about a lot of life’s best gifts?

And now it seems like I should intentionally apply this lesson to something else in my life. Something else that’s on my mind these days.  

Hmmmmm. I wonder what that could be?

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