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January 7, 2014

gum drop sidewalks & combo gifts

I admit as a kid it was cool to have no school on my birthday.  Awesome.  Of course a summer birthday allowing for pool parties, outdoor fun, and relaxing celebrations would have been my preference.  The summer birthday kids got all that, and NO SCHOOL.  'Lucky!'  So, the 'no school' factor was the sole highlight for being born on December 30th. 

My brother was born December 27th, so his birthday sucked too.  Mine sucked more, because my 'big' day (yes, the note of sarcasm you sensed was accurate) arrived after his.  Let me describe the order of birthdays in the month of December in our home growing up.  December 25th - the birth of Christ.  December 27th - the second coming of Christ.  December 30th - the day celebrated when no one can stand to celebrate anymore.  Adults would shuffle around mumbling about whether or not there were any candles left.  Gifts were either unwrapped and offered in a store bag, or were hurriedly wrapped in left over Christmas wrap.  That was of course when there was something to open.  Often I received remarks like 'Remember, you got such and such, that was a Christmas/ Birthday gift.  We told you that on Christmas.'  The glorious combo gift. 

The year I turned seven we moved from Davenport, Iowa to a suburb of Chicago.  In order to make the transition between schools easier and because of the time of year that my Dad's promotion was offered, we moved over Christmas break.  We left the home and friends that I loved on December 20th.  My folks even bought a Christmas tree in Iowa and threw it on the moving van with all of our stuff.  One of our Davenport neighbors gave us a gingerbread house as a going away gift.  We were allowed to pick at the roof and trees of the gingerbread house on Christmas Eve.  On the 27th as we celebrated my brother's birthday, the remnants of the 'house' served as his cake.  We snapped off bits of the brown walls and the tasty chimney until there was very little left.  When the 30th rolled around, the gumdrop sidewalk and a bit of the stale foundation were brought to the center of the table on the cardboard slab.  I am guessing we just didn't bother with a candle. 

My sweet sixteenth was more sour than sweet.  My sister had a scheduled lumpectomy on the 30th of December.  It made sense.  She was home from college, and it needed to be taken care of.  Fortunately, it was not serious.  Outpatient procedure.  Not much focus on birthday celebrating - understandably.  Still, sucky.  I actually think my dad took me to get my drivers license that morning, or the following morning.  I wasn't able to drive for ages though, because he said it was too costly to add me to the insurance.  They were nervous about a teen driving in the snowy, icy Chicago winter weather.  A jedi mind trick, and definitely a hand well played.  One that I hadn't seen coming.  Just a bit of parent trickery, and a bit of birthday bad luck.

The good news in all of this is that I have a very low set of birthday expectations.  One of my roommates in college expected the red carpet to be rolled out every year in celebration of the anniversary of her birth.  I couldn't wrap my brain around it, but still find myself trying to remember to shoot her an email if I haven't dropped her a card in the mail before April 25th.  My husband doesn't realized how lucky he has it.  (OK, I can expand on this big time . . . but I am trying to keep my blogging concise.  I will save the remainder of that topic for another post). 

I once had a D & C on my birthday.  Talk about sucking.  It wasn't as a result of a miscarriage, but because I had a polyp which was possibly making it difficult to conceive.   So, I looked at the procedure as a gift.  Afterwards, my insides were ready to grow a brother for Laddie.  Eddie was fittingly baptized on my 30th birthday:  12/30/00.  Talk about coming full circle.  I didn't mind sharing the limelight that day, or the cake!

One of my best birthdays as a young mom was when Tetonka was 3 1/2 weeks old.  Coach and I flew to Detroit to attend the wedding of one of my closest college roommates.  Coach and I were both sleep deprived and Tetonka barely slept in the hotel room.  Why should that day be any different than his first 24 days?  We arrived home on the 29th.  I woke up to feed the bottomless pit in the middle of the night.  Coach rolled over and mumbled something to me.  I had to ask him to repeat himself.  I finally got the message . . . 'I took the day off, Happy Birthday.'  Translation:  the morning of my 32nd birthday I wasn't dragged out of bed by Laddie and Eddie.  Coach was available to get up with them.  Now that was a gift!  

Over the past few years, Coach has arranged for another couple to meet us for dinner a few times for my birthday.  He threw me a surprise party the day after I turned 39 (New Year's Eve) siting it as the first day of my 40th year.  As a kid I can remember sharing the news that I was about to turn another year older with anyone who would listen.  As an adult I find it awkward to announce my birthday to people.  Most of my mom friends don't know when my b-day is.  Even the friends who Coach invited to meet us out for dinner don't typically have my b-day penciled in on their calendar, so by the next year they don't recall the date as anything special.  Enter Facebook.  I have a Facebook page, but I rarely even look at it.  No time.  I stopped accepting new 'friends' some time ago.  Every December 30th I receive tons of Facebook b-day messages from random people.  I barely knew these individuals in high school and now I get a birthday message from them via Facebook.  Strange.  Of course my life long friends call me with birthday wishes.  Overall, I find being a grown up with a birthday is just weird though. 

The mom birthday.  Just another day.  If my birthday falls on a weekend or on a day that Coach is home for dinner, the kids are forced to behave and treat me well.  This year my birthday fell on a Monday.  Coach's long day.  No constant Daddy reminders to stay out of trouble.  Kids home.  No school.  I couldn't wait for the day to end.  The pressure to enjoy a day when a fist fight broke out between Tetonka and Eddie in the kitchen pinning me against the counter was daunting.  In an unrelated incident the same daring duo snuck cookies from my sacred, homemade, freezer stash frustrating me to no end.  Add to that plenty of talk back, teenage attitude, a necessary grocery store run, and hosting three cousins for a rescheduled play date - the day was like any other.  Me begging kids to listen, trying to accomplish something, and being startled at some of their antics.  Mini even voiced her disappointment that I hadn't baked myself a birthday cake.  The little scoundrels didn't bother with homemade cards until the next day when they caught Coach's wrath.  Seeing as most of our appliances just quit working that fall complicated our already tight budget, so no real birthday gifts.  I must admit, Curly still conforms to the idea that birthdays should be wonderful.  She dedicated herself to delivering a steady stream of hugs and kisses and her attention to good behavior was appreciated.  Eventually after the kids were in bed, Coach and I were able to salvage the day by watching a hilarious movie.  Ah, the little things.

Looking back, gum drop sidewalks and combo gifts rock when compared to naughty kids, no gifts, and a reminder that most of my friendships were developed back when technology wasn't part of the equation. 


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