This piece was published on December 17, 2000 in the Pasadena Star News.
“How old are you?” the kindergarten teacher asked. “I’m five-years-old,” I replied.
“When were you born?” she further inquired. “Five days before Christmas,” I said, with some pride. She wasn’t satisfied.
“What month were you born in?” she asked. I had no idea. All I knew was that I was born five days before Christmas. That’s what my mom told me and I thought it was a good thing. Now I was confused.
I repeated my previous statement. “I was born five days before Christmas.” Need I say more? “What month were you born in?” She repeated her previous question. I wondered why this silly woman, an adult, didn’t know what month “”five days before Christmas” was in.
After all, Christmas was important. Everyone knew when it was. Why didn’t she? Everyone who has a birthday in December knows the drill. We got cheated; stiffed; hung out to dry by the loving couple who got together sometime in March and, with God’s blessing, started a tiny cell that divided and divided.
That tiny cell became a blessed event deep in the dark days of December. Hopefully, that tiny life lit the night. That special baby was destined to share the spotlight with another baby that looms large on everyone’s calendar, be they Christian, Jew, Muslin or atheist. All of us December babies share the spotlight with a wonderful holiday that no other child born in any other month must share. It is a blessing and a curse.
Babies born on the Fourth of July share it with Uncle Sam. Big deal. Babies born in the spring share it with the Easter Bunny. So what? Babies born on Labor Day may elicit a laugh or two, but never get cheated out of a present. December babies may get shortchanged at a time of year when presents flow, bank accounts get overdrawn and presents are purchased out of compulsion, not need. We got robbed!
I was lucky. My mother was a good mom and always had a birthday cake and special presents for me, five days before Christmas. As I look back, I admire her determination to make my birthday special. With limited resources and five children to buy for, my mom made sure I could look back on pictures of me blowing out the candles on my cake and proudly posing with my very own birthday presents, just five days before Christmas. I cherish those photos.
I will always be grateful to her, and to my dear husband, who never fails to make a very big deal about my December birthday. A child’s birthday is a very special event for the child, the parents, and all the loving relatives and friends.
For those wise and wonderful people who take a moment to recognize a December birthday, for a four-year-old or a forty-year-old, I send a special thanks. For those not so wise and wonderful people who have gotten away with one gift instead of two, I send a swift kick in the conscience.
Give the December loved one his or her due. Make them feel special, just as you make sure all the other birthday babies feel special. Open your heart and your wallet and do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . as if you had been born five days before Christmas.
Kathleen Vallee Stein