Weekly Column: A new year, another birthday.

©Stephenie Freeman

I was two weeks late arriving. Every night my father pleaded with my mother, “Have it tonight. I’m all ready. Have it tonight.” Before they knew it, New Year’s Eve had arrived and I still hadn’t.

My parents decided to go to my aunt and uncle’s house for to watch whatever bowl games were on and celebrate the New Year with their family and friends. Two chili dogs with onions and a glass of champagne later, my tired mother was ready to take my inebriated father home.

“Don’t have it tonight.” (Slurring.) “Please, just don’t have it tonight.”

At around four o’clock in the morning, my mother went into labor and approximately eight hours later I arrived. Yes, I was a New Year’s baby who made her parents miss getting a tax break by a measly twelve hours and fifty-four minutes.

I was a difficult child from the beginning.

Toting two cameras with a champagne induced headache and dressed in overalls, my father took pictures of me through the nursery window while my mother spent the next nine hours sleeping off the Demerol. Unfortunately, some other kid out at Ft. Sill was born before me, so I did not win the year’s supply of diapers or get my picture in the paper. But there is something unique about being born on this particular day, and I’m reminded of it every time someone looks at my driver’s license.

“Oh, look! You’re a New Year’s Baby.”

“Yep, sure am.”

“Guess that’s a pretty fun birthday. Everybody always celebrates it.”

“Actually, everyone is usually hung-over on my birthday.”

“Still, it’s gotta be a fun birthday to have!”

And it is. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have been sung “Happy Birthday” at midnight. I always start the New Year with champagne, cake, and presents, and no one ever has to work on my birthday. There’s a Rose Parade to watch, black-eyed peas to eat (which I never do), and resolutions to make and break.

Growing up, however, it wasn’t always so great. Kids with birthdays near Christmas are often shortchanged in the present department. The DMV wasn’t open the day I turned sixteen, and I never had my birthday party on my actual birthday because parents don’t want to bring their kid to a birthday party when there are bowl games to watch.

When I was in kindergarten, all of the students with birthdays in the month of January were asked to come up on stage during a school assembly to be recognized.

“And when’s your birthday?” Mr. Wright, our principal, asked me.

“January 1st,” I told him.

“Wow! What a fun birthday to have,” he said smiling at me.

“Uh-huh, but I made my father miss the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl and cost him lots of money.”

I got a big laugh from the teachers on that one and was later told that I might have a future as a stand-up comedian. But a five-year-old doesn’t think up those sorts of one-liners on her own. Kindergartners usually repeat things that they’ve heard over and over and over again from their parents.

Regardless, I wouldn’t trade my birthday for any of the other 364 days in the year. No matter how old I get I will always be the New Year’s Baby, and when you’re knocking on forty being referred to as a baby isn’t such a bad thing. Every year for my birthday I am given the gift of all that the New Year has to bring. Unfortunately, I can’t return it if I decide I don’t like it. Good thing I’ll get a brand-new one for my birthday next year.

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