If you want to know what it feels like to be a birthday present just ask me. I arrived in my sister Marsha’s life as an extra gift from Mom and Dad. Mom was always very “even steven” as she liked to say, in her treatment of all of us. It was very important to her that if one of us eight kids got one birthday present on our special day, then each of the rest of us would get one and only one present on our day too. This at least applied to her two September kids and her three October kids, because the few weeks dividing the first and last dates was too short for us to not take notice of any perceived injustices. The same equality held true for Christmas gifts; in years when finances were tight if the first of her children got one or two gifts, then everyone else down the line would get the same number.
I can just imagine her counting things out as she laid everything on the table to wrap up on Christmas Eve. One pair of dark blue, dark brown, or dark green plaid pajamas for each of the three boys, and one pair of pink, mauve, baby blue, mint green, or pale yellow pajamas for each of the five girls. Then she would also have to wrap up a toy, a game, or maybe even a pair of ice skates, picked from the items on the list that we each had prepared for Santa. On more prosperous Christmas mornings the number of things we received from Santa would increase, but it didn’t actually make us any happier than we were in the leaner years. We were always just so thrilled that it was Christmas again that nobody paid much attention to how much stuff there was or wasn’t.
Whatever each of us got was likely up for sharing before the day was out anyway, except for the ice-skates and pajamas. For those to come your way you had to wait ‘til your older sibling outgrew them. But that would likely only take a year, unless you were Jeannie; she wasn’t fond of Keith’s plaid pajamas and was always too small to fit into anything from Marsha or me for at least two or three years after we outgrew them. I guess Jimmy had a similar problem, I just can’t picture him wearing his older sisters Janice and Kathy’s pastel ruffled jammies, or a pair of their white figure skates for the five or six years it would take him to grow into Keith’s. (Pajamas, not figure skates Keith)
I often try to picture that little one week old me, resting in my mother’s arms, all wrapped up in a fuzzy pink blanket on the day that my sister Marsha blew out the single candle on her very first cake. As i weighed a bit more than eight pounds I am sure that when I was put into Marsha’s lap she probably said “Yippy!” or “Wow! Another present!”(In baby talk of course) and then “Hey gimme back my Raggedy Ann! This dolly is too heavy!” After that she likely jumped down and ran off to play with something a lot more interesting than me, like Daddy’s gardening shoes or the toilet brush.
As hard as Mom might try for the rest of our childhoods, the equity of her gift giving was forever, hopelessly out of balance, Even though she had six kids after me she never succeeded in bringing any one of the other seven of us an extra gift of a baby home on our birthday. My sister Marsha, however, made it up to me on Mom’s behalf when she gave birth to my beautiful niece Sarah on October 2. my birthday! Not to be outdone in the gift-giving department my sister Janice also gave me a birthday gift a few years later.She hung in there just for me until October 2 also, despite equally great discomfort on her part, to give me my wonderful nephew Carl a few years later. Those sisters of mine are always trying to outdo one another!