The world is divided into two types of people: Those with a birthday on or near Christmas and everyone else.
By the time you celebrate a birthday on or near Christmas, everyone’s broke, out of town or forgets about your birthday altogether.
As a young child, I remember being stuck unwrapping my birthday gifts on Christmas day. It didn’t matter if we celebrated Christmas at our house or at a relative’s place. A sour look would cross their faces when they remembered I had a birthday in two days and they had no intention of being there.
“Here you go,” said my cousin Debbie, handing me a present poorly wrapped in Santas. “We won’t have time to come back over in two days. Happy birthday.”
Some even dared to rip off a gift tag right in front of me.
“Merry Christmas,” Grandma said, slapping a new birthday gift tag over the Christmas one. “Happy birthday,” she says with a wink. “This gift is for both.”
The classic two-in-one gift.
Not only did I get gypped with one gift, but the darn thing had to be wrapped in Christmas paper, too?
Visitors made you feel guilty for being born so close to Christmas.
“Gosh, honey,” my aunt tut-tutted with sympathy. “We’re broke from all the Christmas shopping. Can we make up for it later?”
Oh sure. Like next Christmas?
I’ll never forget my 10th Birthday Bummer. Not a single balloon announced my impending birthday. No lingering smells of birthday cake. Not even one measly present in sight.
“When are we going to celebrate my birthday?” I said in a flat monotone voice and held my breath.
Speechless, Mom covered her face with her hands, snapped up her purse and made for the door. An hour later, she waltzed into the house, bearing a carrot cake and candles. That’s right. December birthday cakes are in short supply at the grocery store.
Good grief woman, you only have one kid!
Forget about having a birthday party on your actual date or anywhere near the date. Your friends are out of school, on vacation or just plain busy.
When I became an adult, my birthday continued to get buried under Christmas trappings and holiday glee. On my 45th birthday, things spiraled out of control.
That year, since our kids still believed in Santa, we trekked to the Midwest to share their wonder with the grandparents. Towing gifts galore, we visited our two sets of divorced parents.
Do the math. That’s four households!
That year we schlepped across the country after Christmas on December 27, my birthday.
Waking up youngsters at 4 a.m. is not an easy task. The 7 a.m. flight from Denver to Peoria, Illinois, did not go as planned. Our flight, diverted to Chicago for “equipment problems,” caused our initial difficulties. Then due to severe weather, the airline shut down, and the only way to travel was by rental car.
Between Chicago and Peoria, our rental car popped a tire, sending us careening off the highway. If you think it’s impossible to get AAA in the middle of a snowstorm, you’d be right.
After 19 hours of travel, we arrived at Nana’s, bearing six suitcases, boxes of gifts, soggy and exhausted.
Once we said our initial hellos and gathered our breath, I spied a birthday cake on the kitchen table.
“Look,” I said as I nudged my husband in the ribs. “Your mom remembered. I want to get at that cake.”
At that moment, his mom entered the kitchen and said, “You guys hungry? We tried to wait. Want leftovers?”
My family of four chowed down on a mish mash of leftovers: hunks of turkey hanging off the bone, bits of corn casserole, and a few tablespoons of mashed potatoes. No one whispered a word about the cake.
“Wait,” said my daughter with a frown. “It’s mom’s birthday. We still need to sing.”
This kid is definitely my favorite.
“Let’s celebrate Mom’s birthday tomorrow when Aunt Jean can come back over with the kids. They waited forever for you guys to get here.”
I want my mommy!
Day two was more of the same.
After breakfast on day three, I spied the cake looking flatter and less perky than the day before. I tapped my husband on the shoulder and said, “Follow me.”
In the kitchen I whispered, “Look,” I said, clenching my teeth. “It’s been three days since my actual birthday. If you don’t start singing and serve this cake, I’m going to push it on the floor.”
His eyes bulged as I slowly the edged the cake across the table. As I paused with one finger on the cake, he belted out, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Stacey, happy birthday to you.”
Before he was finished singing, everyone ran into the room to see what the commotion was about.
My man knows to take me at my word.
To this day, my husband claims I’m a big baby and he believes that everyone actually overcompensates by giving me more gifts.
That’s what he said.
— Stacey Gustafson
Stacey Gustafson is the bestselling author of Are You Still Kidding Me? She’s also an inspirational speaker, blogger and comedian. Her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other online and print publications. She’s been named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month. She performs stand-up throughout the East Bay and lives in Pleasanton, California, with her college sweetheart, Mike, and a white furball named Stanley who loves peanut butter treats. Visit her popular blog, Are You Kidding Me?, Facebook @StaceyGustafsonWriter, and Twitter @RUKiddingStacey.