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Bargell: Those Christmas birthdays

by Cindy Bargell

It’s a big birthday week in our house. Three days after the one we all celebrate, our eldest daughter turns another year older, smack dab between Christmas and New Year’s. When she was born, we didn’t think much of her juxtaposition between the holidays, except maybe that she just missed being the first baby of the new millennium. Boy, could we have used that year’s worth of free diapers.

Since her actual birth, we’ve run into lots of folks who are Christmas babies. I’ve tried to learn from them all. My sister-in-law, born just days before Christmas, has told me to never (and I mean never) wrap a birthday gift in Christmas paper. So, I keep birthday paper stocked and ready for this time of year.

One of my close friends has a birthday on December 26, and she just slid gently into a new decade. I e-mailed her to wish her the best and she informed me that she really wasn’t too happy about it – but what can you do? She is very pragmatic about having a December birthday. It likely has to do with the fact that between the six kids her parents raised, four of them have birthdays between Christmas and January 3rd. Makes you wonder if the other two felt left out. And then there’s a friend who has a birthday on Christmas day. For her, it’s fitting – she’s one of the kindest people I know. But, oh, the pressure to share that birthday.

For us this birthday is a bit different, as our daughter turns 11. There is a bittersweet quality in the realization that she has passed that invisible mark where she likely has fewer remaining birthdays to celebrate at home than the number she’s already shared with us. Gone are the elaborately themed parties. For this child, we won’t be missing them so much as she’s picked everything from insects to Gandhi for a theme – try finding party favors for those. Plus, it’s true the only way the kids remember that fantastic “Princess” party from when they turned 3 is through pictures, or stories repeating back their antics. I’m guessing the themes and gimmicks instead are for us parents, so we’ll have some hope of remembering the birthdays as the years fly by. That’s OK, because I’ll always have the indelible image of our littlest one giving a huge, face-smashing kiss to a very, very red Elmo cake on her first birthday, and ending up looking like his pink cousin.

Our oldest now is coming into those defining adolescent years, figuring out what’s important to her, not just what we think should be important. She no longer neatly fits into my lap for a big birthday hug. And then there are the days when she would actually want that hug, and others well – not so much. This time reminds me of a passage I recall from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, “Simple Abundance,” where Breathnach describes the delight she takes in a picture of herself taken at about age 11. The author believes this picture captures her “authentic self” revealing the essence of what Breathnach believes still is somewhere deep inside, inadvertently buried during the strains of adulthood. To her, it was a face of pure joy, free from any make-up or made-up emotion, reflecting the time before boys and babies, or other concerns of adulthood. So, today instead of getting a picture of the baby covered with Elmo, I will try to get at least one picture that reflects back the joyful spirit of childhood. I know she has to grow up, and sometimes I wish it didn’t have to happen – but what can I do?

Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at cindy@visanibargell.com.


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