Yours, Mine, and Ours

By nature, most kids aren’t inclined to share. Whether it be toys, the backseat of a car, or even a box of Cheez-Its, the chances are better than average that at least one fight is going to break out over the desired object in question. That’s why I find it so odd that my brother and I have no trouble whatsoever sharing a birthday. We’ve always celebrated the day together on April 21st.

If memory serves, I believe we're seven and four here. I'm rocking those 80s Coke bottle glasses!

But here’s the wacky thing….we’re not twins. Nope, I am three years older than my lil’ brudder. But do you want to hear something even stranger than the fact that we were born on the exact same day? We were also born on the exact same minute—3:38 AM—and in the exact same room in the hospital. Yep, three years later to the minute, my mother found herself in the exact same awkward, painful, and compromising position. According to this thread at physicsforum.com, there is a 1 in 525,600 chance of two people in the same family being born like we were, and that’s just pretty John Brown awesome if I do say so myself. That’s why I’ve never known what it’s like to have my own party, my own cake, or my own day; Jarrod’s just always been there right beside me. When I started school, I remember thinking my classmates were weird because they didn’t celebrate their birthdays with a baby brother or sister!

Judging by the perm, we hadn't escaped the 80s yet. That would make me eleven here and Jarrod eight.

There were a few differences between our arrivals. For instance, my brother was born breech (because he’s a show off) while I came into the world “in the usual way” as Harry Chapin once wrote. Also, our dad was present for Jarrod’s birth but not for mine because no one, including fathers, was allowed in the delivery room in the 1970s. We were both late, but Jarrod was only ten days behind schedule. It took me an extra eighteen days before I was ready to make my appearance. He’s a left handed weirdo; I’m a righty. He’s great at math, which makes my head hurt, and I’m the whiz when it comes to language and literature. We might not quite be as “country and rock and roll” as Donny and Marie, but you get the drift.

I think this is birthday fifteen for me and twelve for J-Rod.

This year, we turned 34 and 31 respectively, and it was one of those birthdays that called for a moment of contemplation because quite a bit has changed since the last time we attempted to simultaneously blow out candles without spitting on the cake. I changed career fields and moved into a major metropolitan area. Jarrod one-upped me by getting married and buying a house. We’re both “grown ups” now for lack of a better term; we work in full time jobs, pay taxes, buy insurance, and do all those other less than stellar activities we never even knew existed before we went to college and were required to make something of ourselves. How we both managed that successfully I’ll never know. 🙂

I'd like to think that the fact we're holding this in our teeth is proof we haven't totally grown up yet!

This was also the first year buying gifts for one another was relatively difficult (at least for me) because we don’t spend as much time together. When we were living under the same roof and were constantly involved in the other’s business, we knew what movies, music, hobbies, and collectibles the other one had on the brain. We were even roommates in college, at least until I went and got myself married in 2000. However, now that we live six hours apart and communicate once a week rather than once a day, it’s harder to keep up with that kind of stuff. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just different—one more piece of evidence that times they are a’changing—and it makes me a little more melancholy for birthdays past.

Judging by the fist pump, I guessed correctly with the collectible Voltron figure.

Our family has always been close-knit and loving, and we are both blessed beyond measure to be part of it. However, we are all getting older, and life just keeps on getting infinitely more complicated. For instance, our grandparents are now in their 70s and are dealing with health issues that are altogether new to them. The way they live their lives has changed, and it’s a little jarring when you have it presented to you in such sharp contrast to previous years.

This was the also the first year I can remember that our father couldn’t be present for the festivities because he had to conduct his store’s yearly inventory. Our  only cousin on this side of the family also couldn’t be there because he was in Orlando at a state level math competition. Despite all the joy of the day, I found myself thinking the same question Jo asks in Little Women, “Will we never all be together again?”

Yes, it is a Cardinals themed birthday party for two thirty-year-old people. We aren't proud.

It’s things like this that make me truly realize how short life is and how quickly things can change. A few years ago, Alex (the aforementioned cousin) was all chubby cheeks and totally hooked on Barney. Now, he’s a junior in high school, driving a car, and starting to apply for college. It just hit me that, this year, he will turn seventeen, the same age I was when he was born. It puts things in perspective, that’s for sure.

I can’t stop anyone from getting older anymore than I can tell the moon to stop changing its shape. Time is going to soldier on like it has for centuries, and life as I knew it will always be changing. Before long, I’ll be an aunt and will attend birthday parties at Jarrod’s house for children that seem utterly impossible because, to me, he’s still a child himself.

I suppose that’s why I’m grateful to have a brother to share a birthday with, and I can’t imagine what life is like for people who don’t have a similar arrangement with their siblings. No matter how many other things in life change, this is a constant we can rely on. Even if we’re miles apart and can’t celebrate it together one year, we know there is another soul somewhere on this planet who is thinking about us and wishing us well that April 21st. Our shared day isn’t an inconvenience or a hindrance; it’s a privilege God allows us to share. And I, for one, wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Mamie and Bobo in 2012.

Happy Chipmunk Day!!!

December 21st, like all of its neighbors that separate us from the full on festivities of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is often overlooked or hastily torn from the calendar in an impotent rage that makes us wish time travel in a DeLorean was possible. However, we should not be so quick to dismiss this seemingly run-of-the-mill day or slap the incorrect moniker “Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve” on it.

Let us not forget that December 21st is the earliest possible day for the winter solstice! Likewise, there are many hallmark moments we should remember and observe on this oft maligned twenty-four hour period. For instance, did you know that on this day…

  • In the year 69, Vespasian was declared Roman emperor.
  • The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620.
  • The HMS Challenger launched in 1872.
  • The timeless play, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen premiered in Copenhagen on a snowy night in 1879.
  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons and Royal Canadian Regiment were formed in 1883.
  • The first crossword puzzle appeared in the New York Times in 1913.
  • Snow White, the first full-length animated film, graced the screen in 1937.
  • The first open heart transplant was performed in South Africa in 1967. Granted, the patient died 18 days later, but still…
  • Many famous and illustrious people celebrate their arrival in the world including Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury, martyr, and saint), John Russell (who gave us the uber annoying Jack Russell Terrier), Benjamin Disraeli, Phil Donahue, Frank Zappa, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Romano, Andy Van Slyke, and Kiefer Sutherland.
  • Still many more chose this day to use as their launching pad into the vast and unknown reaches of eternity. Some famous folks who bought the farm outright on 12/21 include Thomas the Apostle, Giovanni Boccaccio, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Smith Patton, Jr., Frank B. Kellogg, Albert King, Scobie Breasley (an Australian jockey whose name I just really wanted to include in this list because it sounds cool), and Paul de Man.

Yes, December 21st is a veritable cornucopia of moments both trivial and watershed! However, that is not the reason I’m blogging about it. Today is a day that you, too, can celebrate and use to put a little “Whazzup!” in your yearly wassailing.

I’ve always loved the “Creeper Face” Simon is making in this picture! (From 2or3lines.blogspot.com)

Unless you’re a descendant of Ebeneezer Scrooge, you know this song well. Most people know and love the lyrics “Christmas, Christmastime is near…” sung in an impossibly high register. The disgruntled adoptive father who just wants to get it done and two whiny demands for a hula hoop have made this song a standard in the holiday playlist of many radio stations in America for the last forty years.

The record came in packaging with this image on the front, and my mother and aunt loved it so much that they played it non-stop when they first got it. Why? Since our ancestors first began sharecropping the cotton fields of Arkansas, we’ve been Christmas enthusiasts. Out of that great love for one another and the holiday, we’ve slowly added traditions that make it special. For instance, someone always has to dance to “Holly Jolly Christmas,” we have to have the “Festive Yule Log” burning on the television when we’re opening presents (It’s hot in Florida, so real fires aren’t an option.), and while we eat a true meal on Christmas afternoon, the eve meal is a plethora of junk food like cheese sticks, party pizzas, potato skins, and other finger foods.

We always sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and my father (who hates it) has to sing “Two Turtle Doves” because that means he, the curmudgeon, has to sing all twelve rounds. Without fail, someone reads Luke 2, the Scripture that chronicles the birth of Jesus, and we follow that with the things for which we are thankful and what we’re glad the year brought us. Sometimes, I write a Christmas story or poem that we read together, or my husband and I perform a mini concert on our instruments. And we always get new pajamas we change into the instant the sun hints at disappearing behind the horizon.

And while we’ll open a few presents on Christmas Eve to take the edge off our desire to tear into each and every one of the packages stashed under the tree, up the stairs, and in the dining room, never more than a handful make the sacrifice for the greater good. What we usually do is sort them into piles for each person so the process is streamlined the next morning…though it does make the floor a bit hard to navigate! And when we do open those presents, we do NOT do so in a feeding frenzy style, each person wrapping and giving a collective “Thank You” to one another at the end. No, sir! Each person takes a turn while everyone watches (unless two or three people have the same gift. Those can be opened simultaneously). Once they are opened,  gifts are admired, stories of their purchases are shared and bragged on (especially if the item was found on sale), and there is always an “ooh” or “aah” when warranted. Oftentimes, it takes five hours for us all to open, and we often take a break to stretch, fetch more coffee, and snack on cookies and candies not nommed the night before.

“But why Chipmunk Day?” I hear you asking. Well, we started celebrating it when I was a kid. It’s the beginning of “For Real Christmas” for us. After all, the big day is only ninety-six hours away! We don’t give gifts or anything; it usually involves phone calls, messages on Facebook pages, the occasional card, and other things like that. Yes, it is a way for us to begin decompressing, to begin focusing our attention not on the commitments that keep us separated from one another over the course of the year, but rather on those things that bring us together—faith, family, and tradition. “Hurry Christmas, hurry fast.” Indeed, I’m with you in that sentiment, Chipmunks. I’m in such a good mood already that I almost don’t care about the modifier problem in that sentence. 🙂

Merry Christmas, everyone!