Do I get gypped? Actually, I feel pretty lucky
December 26, 2005
Usually, it starts with my friends. One of them will mention to a bystander that I was born on Christmas and, without a pause, I get the third degree. The most common question is, of course, “Do you get gypped?”I always assume that the person asking that questions wants to know if, when I was a little kid, I received “combo gifts.” Now, for anyone born around Christmas, you understand what this means – if the gift costs a little more money or energy, it can work as a birthday and Christmas gift.Usually, the person asking does so out of guilt, because he or she had just bought a “combo gift” for a friend. They ask quick follow up questions: Do we really care? Do we feel cursed by the “combo gifts?”Personally, as a member of the holiday-birthday tribe, I’ve had my share. A guitar, skis and a family vacation to Colorado when I was growing up showed up as “combo gifts.” I have to admit, those were some of the best presents I ever received – although I’ll never forget the 10,000-piece NASA Space puzzle a relative gave me one year. Think about it: 10,000 pieces of space, in which all the stars look alike; and this was no “combo gift.”
This was a threat, at some level. I imagine the puzzle sitting in an attic somewhere, still waiting to take up an eternity of some poor person’s free time. So, in lieu of the alternative, I’ll take the “combo gift,” thank you.Having birthday parties when I was growing up was another challenge. I always had to schedule them a week early, or a week late, and my parents always made the offer to have a “summer birthday” for me, but I refused. My birthday was my birthday and, frankly, I liked the novelty of it all, even if all other second graders were on vacation and couldn’t come to my party.Still, my family deserves a lot of credit for making my birthday unique and my own. The rules were clear: Christmas was in the morning. My birthday was in the afternoon. This meant two dinners, two deserts, two gift-opening times – and two times the trash to throw away. Only as I get older do I understand why my parents wanted to celebrate my birthday in the summer – the holidays are crazy, and I was just making them a little more nuts.But like any kid, I enjoyed being the source of insanity. I give my parents credit for managing that lunacy then, and continuing to do so now.
My older sister deserves even more credit. When I was born, she was celebrating her fourth Christmas at a neighbor’s house. For that, she can buy as many “combo gifts” as she wants.And then there are the other pitfalls to being born on such a religious and consumption-based holiday. People jokingly ask if I want to be Jesus … and I’m never quite sure how to respond. I want to say, “Yes, he seemed like a pretty good guy,” but I also don’t want anyone thinking I’ve lost my mind.Yet, I’m fine with all the questions, annoyances and distractions that come along with a Christmas birthday. For one, it taught me to share my day with millions of others. Everyone wants to celebrate on my birthday, and everyone wants to exchange gifts, converse over a enormous feast and sit around and watch football.There are more advantages.
Stresses are forgotten. Nobody forgets to call. People take off of work. Towns throw parties. People reflect on the state of the world, the state of their lives and the future ahead – and promise to do better next year. And, for the most part, millions of people stop their daily routines for the idea of peace, love and tranquility. So, am I really being gypped? The older I get, the more I’ve come to this realization: Having a birthday and Christmas on the same day is the best “combo gift” of them all.Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13600, or at firstname.lastname@example.org