My son was born on December eighteenth. This is a perfect example of very poor family planning. No thoughtful parent would do such a thing to a child, placing his birth date so close to Christmas. Then again, I’m not sure how thoughtful his mother and I were at the time.
I remember returning from the hospital to the group house where I had previously lived with my three college roommates. We all were still in school, seniors. There was snow on the ground and the apartment, in a once lovely and grand old house, was notoriously drafty. Still, they toasted me, my young wife, and our new son with—what else?—ice cold beer. After a couple of beers a thought struck me like a lightning bolt from the heavens: You will not be able to sleep late again for many years… That sobered me right up and, of course, was completely true.
So here was this tiny little infant boy—wisps of hair, wrinkly face—with a birthday just one week, exactly, before Christmas. My wife and I lived in upstate New York at the time and had always spent Christmas with our respective parents down near New York City. I called our pediatrician and asked if it was safe for the little guy to travel. The doc said, “That kid has more natural antibodies in him right now than perhaps at any other time in his life. Go for it.”
So we did. We bought a folding “port-a-crib” (no longer available, I should think), set it up in the back of our Volkswagen square-back (a kind of mini-station wagon also no longer available), tossed the kid in the crib, and rocketed down the New York State Thruway. This was before those silly child safety seats. He might have rolled around a bit back there, but he never complained. Not once. That may be because the VW’s faulty exhaust tended to filter into the passenger compartment. Hard to say.
But I have always felt guilty. All his life (so far) the poor devil has been effectively shortchanged at both his birthday AND Christmas. Too close together, presents merged, plus there is something just wrong about wrapping a birthday present in Christmas paper.
This year, though, I am atoning. For his birthday, I am giving him a gift collection from a really fine new men’s razor manufacturing company. I think it’s time he shaved.
He’s forty-eight, after all.
I confess that every time he has a new birthday these days I find it hard not to take offense. I want to give him a good old New York “dope slap” for being so disrespectful to his only father. I mean, really, how did he get so old? And what’s with this grandson thing, anyway? A grandson? Who’s in high school? That’s just wrong, too.
But in moments of calm, I confess to myself that no one could have had a sweeter son. He’s a terrific dad and a successful architect. I count myself immensely lucky every December.
Happy Birthday, Eric. You were a magical Christmas gift.