All the December babies

All the December babies

It never fails.

On the first day of December, my husband starts reminding “someone’s got a birthday coming up.”

I cringe.

The someone is me.

I cringe, not because I dread getting older.

That part doesn’t really bother me; I am now at the stage of life where I am looking forward to becoming that crazy old Southern woman that shocks people.

No, the part that bothers me is that my birthday is the week before Christmas.

You folks with birthdays in other months just do not understand this pain.  

The only good thing about having a birthday the week before Christmas was that it was usually the day school got out for the break.

But celebration wise, to quote Seuss, it stink, stank, stunk.

“We’re having the Christmas party at church on the 17th,” Granny would say. “Consider that your party.”

“But, that’s not my birthday and it is the Christmas party,” was my response.

“Well, your mother’s working and I ain’t got time to throw you a party. You think you too good to celebrate on the day we celebrate Baby Jesus?”

I shook my head. The old gal knew just how to shame me.

“Well, good. And any gifts you get at church is for your birthday.”

You know what I got?
I got socks and books.

No underwear, thankfully, as that is not proper to be given at church, even if wrapped in red, shiny paper.

“So, this is my birthday presents?” I asked as we drove home afterwards.

“You may have another special one under the tree at the house,” Granny said.

A special one under the tree. Hmmm…I wonder what that could be?
Had the old gal felt pity on me for getting socks and a new Garfield comic book as my birthday?

“You gotta wait until your birthday though,” she said. “But it will be worth it.”

I was so excited. I knew I had two sleeps until I could wake up and get something awesome, something incredible, something Granny herself had described as special.

The day of my actual birthday, I woke up early even though I didn’t have to go to school. I ran down the hall, hoping Granny would let me have the gift before she went to work.

“You’re up early!” she exclaimed when she saw me. “Couldn’t wait to be one year older, could you?”

I shook my head. Would she give it to me now? Did I need to go wake Mama? I hated waking her but if this was special, she should see it, too.

“Eat some breakfast and then I will let you get your gift.”

She shoved a plate of biscuits and sausage in front of me because she did not believe cereal was a proper meal.

I was almost too excited to eat. I saw a big box under the tree, and knew it had my name on it.

Pop had already checked it out and was disappointed it wasn’t his.

“You got the biggest one under the tree,” he told me. “She better not have me a tie or something. I only wear that stuff on Sundays; it ain’t getting worn out.”

Granny was about to leave and hadn’t given me my gift yet. Had she forgotten?

“Granny?” I began.


“Are you forgetting something?”

“Oh! You are waiting on your birthday gift. No, I didn’t forget,” she began. She sat her purse down. “Go get that gift over there.”

She was pointing to the big box.

 “The big one?” I asked, just to be sure.

She nodded.

Oh, sweet son of a biscuit eater. Whatever this was, was going to be good.

I ran to it, eager to tear the paper off. I knew Granny had probably re-used the bows from the last seven Christmases, so I wasn’t worried about being careful with them.

I opened the large, white box, full of anticipation.

And found a long, brushed flannel granny gown with a pink ribbon at the neckline.

“It was so big, I didn’t think I’d ever find a box to put it in. It’s going to get cold the next few weeks; you’ll need it before Christmas.”

And with that, the old gal, headed out the door to work.

A flannel gown. My big, special birthday gift was a flannel gown.

A few years before it had been footy pajamas, so perhaps this was a step up.

“I’m the only child that gets a granny gown for their birthday,” I muttered.

“No, you aren’t,” my grandfather said.
“Name me one more.”
Pop chewed his biscuit as he thought.

“I don’t know their names. But it’s all them other December babies. That’s who.”

Consider this a PSA for December birthdays (12/9/2015)

Like many others, I am a December baby.

My original due date was supposed to be in January, but the only time I decided to arrive early to anything was when I made my grand entrance in the world.

I don’t remember my first birthday, but have seen pictures of myself sticking fingers in a decadent chocolate cake that my Uncle Bobby got me from the Black Forest Bakery in Athens, hailed to have been the premier bakery in the ‘70s.

After that, my birthday was a flop for a while.

There was no big parties – who had time to worry about coordinating a birthday party during the month of December, let alone, the week before Christmas.

No, usually, Mama and Granny had the swell idea of just bringing cake and a bucket of chicken to school for me to have a party with my class. It gave the teachers a brief respite and then, Mama usually sprung me out a little bit early.

When it came time for my present, Granny would instruct me to go pick out a gift from under the tree.

“Not that one. No, put that one back. Uh uh. No. That’s an early Santa gift; he dropped that one off when you was at school. No – get that one back there with the green bow on it.”

A green bow that was probably older than me as it clung to life on the box with layers of clear tape (because Granny was not about to throw anything away – she could get a dozen Christmases out of that bow) was my symbolic green light to my birthday present.

I eagerly tore the paper off and opened the box – careful not to rip it because Granny would re-use the boxes for decades, too – and found just what every kid hopes they never receive as a gift:

Footy pajamas.

Footy pajamas with some kind of horrible ‘70s design – maybe a Care Bear riding a unicorn – was not a good birthday present.

“I didn’t want footy pajamas,” I would say.

“You needed ‘em,” Granny would declare.

“I didn’t want them, though.”

The old gal would snort.

“I didn’t ask you if you wanted them, I told you you needed ‘em – you done outgrown your other ones and these will keep you warmer than a gown. And lookie,” she began, pointing to the drop-seat flap in the back- just what every little girl wants to see on her jammies.

“Now you ain’t got to take ‘em all the way off to go potty.”

My sugar high from the school cake had worn off, so I didn’t attempt to argue with the woman. Disappointed, I went to my room, with my highly flammable – but with excellent traction -footy pajamas in hand.

I wondered if I could move my birthday. Perhaps having a birthday in July? No, the Fourth was then and it was hot. Plus, school was out; no way to have a party with my class. November? Thanksgiving.

What about September? Labor Day.

Was there any good month to be born? I surmised not.

I was the only child, only grandchild, and only niece – and the best they could manage was “Go pick out a present from under the tree?” To paraphrase Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles,” don’t adults live for this stuff?

“Mama, something needs to change?” I said the day after.

“What do you mean, Kitten?”

“I got footy pajamas for my birthday.”

“And you looked adorable last night in them!”

That woman needed to cut back on the caffeine sometimes.

“No, Mama,” I began. “Don’t you think it’s wrong that I have to pick out my birthday present from under the tree? It’s like my birthday doesn’t get its own day. It’s not fair. My birthday should not be an afterthought. It’s not even in birthday paper – it’s in poinsettia paper.”

I may not have been quite as logical and eloquent in my delivery; I was 11 after all. But Mama understood.

From that year on, Mama decided to give my birthday gift either before December, or after – my choice. Instead of poinsettia paper, it’s usually still in the bag from the store she bought it, complete with the receipt in case I want to return it.

She even will call me when she is in a store and tell me what she is looking at or sends me a picture, asking me if it’s something I want. Needless to say, she’s gotten better at the birthday gifting thing over the last 30 years.

Granny wasn’t on board with the whole separate gift idea until Mama pointed out to the old gal, who’s birthday was May 13, that maybe she would be fine with a combo gift for Mother’s Day.

“Oh,” Mama said, in her genteel passive aggressive way. “So we can get you a pair of footy pajamas, too, then?”

“No, I was a-born a long time before I was a mother,” was her reply. “And I expect something nice for my birthday and something nice for Mother’s Day. And don’t you get me no footy pajamas – you get me anything to sleep in, it better be a gown.”

A gown. The old gal wanted a gown as one of her gifts.

Because no one wants footy pajamas for their birthday.

I love you more (10/1/2014)

“I love you more” has been an ongoing thing between my son and me.

He has declared on many a time, that it is he who loves me the mostest. I tell him there is no way.

“To the moon and beyond,” he would say, pointing his little finger to the ceiling.

“I love you beyond where the stars can reach,” I will counter. “Because I love you more.”

“Impossible,” is his response as he snuggles close, smiling happily at the knowledge that he is loved. I assure him it is not impossible at all, but very much the truth.

“You smell pretty,” he tells me every time he gives me a hug.

The little bee charmer will even tell me I am beautiful when I am sitting at my laptop, hair piled on my head and a coffee stain on my blouse.

“No, I am not, baby,” I will reply.

His arms will swing around my neck as he hugs me tight. “To me, you are.”

No one told me how precious little boys were. All I remembered was hearing the rhyme about little girls being made of sugar and spice. I knew as a former little girl myself, that meant I could be quite the sassmaker.

Little boys were supposed to be made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails – in other words, dirty, vile and nasty things. I would take that over sass any day.

“Did you ever want a girl?” Cole asked me one day.

“No,” I answered honestly.

“Even though you could play makeup and do hair and girlie stuff with a girl?”

“I am glad I had you and that you are you,” was my sincere reply. This makes him smile widely as he skips off to play.

He is secure in the knowledge that he is loved, cherished and adored. He has boundaries, and rules to give him his parameters in which to grow and develop. Kindness and compassion are required; chocolate cake or brownies are perfectly acceptable for breakfast.

But I want him to stay that precious, innocent, tenderhearted child he is, just a little bit longer.

I worry that the world will make him hardened. I fear he will let someone’s cruelty put out his inner ‘spark,’ as he calls it. I dread the thought of him ever having a broken heart or dealing with any disappointment that can’t be fixed by Mama making cupcakes or taking him to the park.

There may be a time, in the not so distant future, that Mama may not hold that special place in his heart as I do now. Where he doesn’t come ask my opinion first, before he does a friend and where no matter what Daddy says, Mama’s word is final. But I cherish the fact that now, for the time being, he is still my little boy and my one-and-only and my heart and that now, he thinks I hung the moon. My own teen years made me think my own mother knew nothing, a disillusion that I held until my mid-twenties.

Today, he rounded double digits, entering a new decade, one where he is now 10 and has been telling me, “I am not cute, I am serious,” when I comment how adorable I think he is.

He still lets me hold his hand when we cross the street, or puts his arms around my waist to walk in step with me.

He sees no shame in showing his unabashed joy at seeing his aunt Karla, the weekend before the big 1-0 as he ran down the hall of the hotel with joy to jump into her arms.

He still has that great love affair with a certain plush pig and the other plushies of Piglandia, occasionally asking me if I still believe the pigs are real.

I always say yes.

He’s changed so much in a lightning fast decade, growing taller, gaining quiet confidence and learning compassion. Teaching me about faith, tolerance and acceptance along the way. Things I should have taught him but he has brought the lessons to me.

He still needs Mama to help him fall asleep, as I sing him softly to sleep, me on one side, the pit mix, Angel Doodle on the other, guarding the pigs.

“I love you, Mama,” he said sleepily.

“I love you more,” I said, my standard reply.

This time, I noticed he didn’t say, “Impossible.”

The next day, again, we did our “I love you’s” but he didn’t reply with “Impossible.”

“You know why I don’t say impossible anymore?” he asked, seeing my questioning look. I nodded.

“I realized Mama, as much as I love you, I have realized, you do love me more. You have to; you’re the mama. Mama’s just have more love.”

“So no more ‘impossible?'” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, sweet girl, because I know as much as I do love you, it could never match how much you love me. Because I do know, you do love me more.”

He gave me a quick hug before he skipped off, to build things in Minecraft and watch his cartoons.

Growing up, faster than I liked but gaining insight and wisdom with each passing day.

Maybe, just maybe, he will let me hold his hand and sing him to sleep just a little bit longer.

If I had known then what I know now (12/18/2013)


I turn 41 this week.

Tomorrow actually.

All I can say is, I hope this coming year brings better things than this last year – 40 was a total bust. Of course, I blame Jennifer Aniston for the great 40 let down. She made it look effortless and graceful and of course, looked better at 40 than she did at 20.

This past year had been one full of loss, heartache and great personal disappointment. I had lost three beloved dogs within a month, and half a dozen people I had considered friends.

Losing the dogs still hurts— the so-called friends, not so much.

“What do you want for your birthday?” Mama asked.

“For it and this year to be over,” was my reply.

I had thought life – my life, that is – would be so much different by the time I hit my 40s.

Of course, I thought that same thing when I turned 30 and thought I was having a mid-life crisis. I hadn’t accomplished the things I thought I should have by 30, so what did I do? I whacked my hair off and had a pity party.

What did I do this year? Whacked my hair off and had an even bigger pity party.

Those turn of the decade birthdays seem to really fry my tater.

“Too bad you can’t time travel, you could always go back and do stuff differently,” was Cole’s advice one day.

Hmm. There’s a thought.

If I could travel back in time, I thought what I would tell a younger me: Don’t buy cheap shoes. Ever. They may look cute but after about an hour, you will be cussing, crying and bleeding.

Don’t smoke. Yes, I smoked. It was my dirty little secret that only a few close to me knew about. I am now battling the wrinkles around my mouth as bad as Laura Bush’s. I don’t care who told me one day I looked glamorous sitting outside of the coffee shop, with my hair up and sunglasses on, it was gross and smelly and icky.

Don’t ever let some boy dictate what you do with your life and determine the choices you make. Unless it’s a boy you carried for nine months and gave birth to. Enough said.

Get that Master’s degree, go to law school, medical school – whatever advanced degree you want to do while you are young. Especially when living at home with Mama and she’s paying the chunk of your bills. If Mama says she will help support you as long as you’re in school, take her up on it! You are never too old to learn or go back to school, but it makes it much easier if you do it when you’re younger and have more tolerance for the buckjiving.

Find the jobs with the benefits and the perks and don’t be so quick to quit. Or as a former boss said “no more job-hopping for you!” If I had stayed at some of my earlier jobs, I would have over 15 years vested and maybe have one of those mysterious 401(k) thingys.

Don’t ever get a credit card. I don’t care if you tell yourself you will only use it in emergencies. Clinique Bonus Time seems like an emergency as does 30 percent off of boots.

Love the people and pets in your life and be mindful of the things you say to them. One day, they won’t be here and you will be left with regret for what you did or didn’t say. All the times I fussed about the dogs being on my side of the bed, I regret. I would cry happy tears to find my pillow covered with fur or drool or any mixture thereof again.

I know she’s crazy, I know she drives you crazy and was one of the reasons you smoked, but listen to your Mama. She is one of the few people, if not the only person, who has your back and loves you and is looking out for you.

All those things I just wrote, they’re things she had told me, but I never listened because I thought she was silly or wrong or just trying to control me. Had I listened, those decade launching birthdays may not have been so difficult to face.

Mama was usually right, just don’t ever tell her that or you will never hear the end of it.

As I thought of the things I would tell a younger me, Cole’s question broke my reverie: “But wait…if you traveled back in time, I may not be here right? One little different thing could change the course of destiny forever.”

Which brought me back to what I knew – no matter the mistakes, even the super-foolish, the beyond ridiculous, the ones that made me even question my sanity, I didn’t regret one bit of it.

Sure, there’s things I coulda shoulda woulda done differently. But I wouldn’t change one second if it didn’t put me right where I was, at that moment, looking at that precious face.

“Very true, young grasshopper,” I said. “But I also believe that things eventually end up just the way they are supposed to.”

And I do. Somewhere beyond 40, things will end up the way they should.