My husband’s birthday is the day after Christmas. My stepdaughter’s birthday is Independence Day. My birthday is sandwiched between my son’s birthday and Thanksgiving. The only person in our immediate family without a birthday slap up against some other celebration is my daughter, with her ha-ha-there-are-no-holidays-in-August birthday. We all have a few wrinkles due to the proximity of “our” special day to some other special day. My husband gets presents wrapped in Christmas paper. I haven’t had a birthday cake of my own in years, just a candle stuck into a piece of pumpkin pie or a rocket-shaped cake shared with my son. My stepdaughter gets a cookout for her birthday dinner every year whether she wants it or not (although the fireworks display is a nice consolation). It kind of stinks to have a birthday close to a major holiday.
But it also stinks for those of us trying to celebrate a loved one’s birthday that’s near a holiday. I struggle to find a free evening to take my husband out for a nice birthday dinner among all the other family gatherings and church services and holiday parties. I wrestle with the idea of baking a birthday cake, the leftovers of which will just sit on the counter amidst the 5 different kinds of Christmas cookies and the 6 different kinds of candy that overflowed the stockings, tempting me to commit caloric sins beyond belief. But the hardest part of all is buying him presents.
First of all, in stereotypical husband fashion, whenever he wants something, he buys it for himself. To be fair, he’s no worse about it at Christmas/birthday time than he is the rest of the year. But he’s not the type who thinks of something he’d like in September or October and says, “Hey, I don’t need this right now, I’ll just put it on my gift list.” Nope, he goes straight to amazon.com and CLICK! He doesn’t need it any more.
Second, he’s a techno-geek, so the majority of stuff on his gift list is a) expensive, or b) completely incomprehensible. B) is not a problem unless the item is sold out or back-ordered on Amazon so I have to go to a brick-and-mortar store and try to find an overworked, undertrained, and underpaid temporary holiday employee to help me find the same item. If his birthday were in May or October, I bet everything on his gift list would be in stock. But looking for it on December 18th, along with everyone else in the known universe who waited till the last minute to do their holiday shopping, and you’re just out of luck.
And third, you have to get a whole bunch of gifts all at the same time. Since I have two young children, I have to get him gifts from them as well as from me, so (kids + me) x (birthday + Christmas) = 4 presents. Plus my sister and grandmother want gift suggestions, and I can’t just tell them “Get him X” – I have to tell them, “You could get him X, Y, or Z.” So 3 suggestions x 2 family members = 6 more ideas. Now we’re up to 10 things!! And all within a reasonable price range! It’s a good thing I have a small family.
My husband, God bless his cotton socks, doesn’t make a fuss about having his birthday close to Christmas. Whenever I ask him if he wants a separate birthday party and family Christmas gathering, he shrugs it off. The birthday cake he asks for every year is a gingerbread man – carrying a big Christmas candy cane.
I’ve never heard him complain on the rare occasion he does get a birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper. And when he hears me plotzing about what to get him, he tells me not to worry about it. But I do worry about it, because birthdays are special. You only get one once every year. And I want his to be special. Because HE is special.
But if I can’t quite manage to make his birthday as special as I’d like it to be, I’d say that the next best thing it to treat him as if every day were his special day. After all, he is special to me, every day.