A Christmas Birthday by Molly Howes

December 27, 2014 § 3 Comments

ppI arrived two days after Christmas, so my mother gave me a mouthful of Saints’ names – essentially the Holy Family – Mary Josephine Anne.

During Advent, when Mom wasn’t too depressed or distracted, she’d set up a wicker basket near life-sized cardboard cutouts of Mary and Joseph, their hands pressed together in prayer. Whenever my siblings or I did a good deed, we knelt and put a handful of straw into the basket, so baby Jesus would have a soft place to sleep.

All of us kids, not just the Blessed Infant, got presents. After Christmas, amidst crumpled wrapping paper, the holiday colors now shed and forgotten, I awaited my special day. The date inevitably came, of course, but another special day was one too many for my family to pull off. My birthday was always a tired, messy day, a reflection of our living room floor.

Decades later, I told my then-boyfriend Ron about my disappointing childhood birthdays. Maybe he didn’t understand, because he let it be known that he was short of cash and could probably only get me one present for both Christmas and my birthday. As all December-born people know, that is a potentially relationship-ending comment.

We exchanged our holiday presents ahead of time, because I would be traveling home over Christmas. I returned on my birthday, prepared for disappointment. Grudgingly, I allowed Ron to pick me up at the airport. Behind his aging blue Chrysler, he asked me to open the trunk, so he could stow my bag. I sighed and lifted the lid. Among his dull trunk detritus nestled a package, wrapped in emphatic, purple paper and tied with a bountiful ivory bow. I turned to him, my stiff face melting into a smile that lasted well into the new year.

Molly Howes is a writer and psychologist living in the Boston area. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe Magazine, Bellingham Review, The Tampa Review,Passages North and psychologytoday.com. Her memoir, The Temporary Orphan: A Tale of Invisible Wounds and Unexpected Grace, is close to completion.

§ 3 Responses to A Christmas Birthday by Molly Howes

  • kcharneski says:

    Exit the Hallmark card, enter reality. Love this essay- so many possibilites of what could be in the purple package…

  • wingpoet2014 says:

    Molly, short and exquisite. You have captured the Christmas birthday experience perfectly. My wife was born on Christmas — I was born the day after. The only thing good about that is that we finally have someone in our lives who completely understands what that is like! Our presents are never wrapped in holiday paper; we set aside a special time just for us; and neither one of us feels overlooked anymore. Thanks for the great story.

  • FortunateLee says:

    As a December 21st baby, who also got married on said birthdate, I more than relate to this blog post.

    I’ve had “that talk” re: not wrapping my birthday present in Christmas paper NOR placing it under the tree a couple of times in my life.

    My mother even went so far as to celebrate my half-birthday in May to allow me an actually attended birthday party.


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