Family Histories (Holiday Edition): Dad’s Birthday

Welcome to Family Histories (Holiday Edition). I’ve invited readers and bloggers to share holiday themed pieces with the accent on “Family” and “History” in any way they like.

This story by my friend LUANNE CASTLE nearly made me cry so get ready for a beautiful love story!

When I was nine, my mother took my little brother and me to Robert Hall to buy my father a dress shirt and tie. She asked the salesman for a gift box. “It’s for my husband’s birthday.”

As the man turned away, I pulled on my mother’s purse. “It’s not Dad’s birthday! His birthday is the day after Christmas! It’s only June 26!” My mother’s lie shocked me. My brother’s little face, peering up at us, swiveled between Mom and me.

“Shhh, this really is a birthday present, but it’s for your father’s half-birthday!”  As we walked out to the car, my mother explained the new holiday she had invented.

My father and his fraternal twin, my uncle Frank, were born on 26 December 1928, just before the start of the Great Depression. They were raised by their single mother, a tailor, with the help of their sister who was only four years their senior. The only birthday gifts my grandmother could afford for her children was the clothing she sewed them. So my father grew up with very little—and what he had was shared with his brother. Even his birthday was shared.

What made it even harder for him was that he shared the season of his birthday with that of the baby Jesus. When my parents got married, my mother saw right away that my father craved the attention of a good birthday. We were careful never to use Christmas wrapping paper for my father’s gift. My mother made him a special birthday meal and cake, rather than serving him food left over from Christmas. But his birthday always felt a little stale, with everyone satiated with food and gifts from the days before—and with gifts to return to the store.

Even as a very young child, I could sense a sadness in my father on his birthday. His gestures and words were brittle, and I could sense that the year after year repetition of disappointment on December 26 weighed on him. In this way, I grew up knowing that my father’s experiences as a child had molded his adult emotions. My mother didn’t seem to carry the scars of childhood with her, but my father did. My mother taught us that we would make it easier for him when we could.

That’s why she came up with the idea of a half-birthday. When we left Robert Hall that first year, we picked up birthday wrapping paper and a cake mix at the grocery store.

When my father came home from work on June 26, he was tired and hungry for dinner. But he saw the gift and cake on the table and smelled the ham and sweet potatoes (his favorite meal). “Happy birthday!” My brother jumped with excitement. Dad smiled at him, then me, and his gaze rested on my mother. “I love you guys!”

When my uncle heard about the half-birthday celebration, he decided he too wanted to celebrate his half-birthday, but the brothers were now living in different states, so they each had their own celebrations with their own young families, and had the spotlight on themselves once a year.

 

Many of you already know Luanne, but if you don’t, now is the time to head over to her blog: LUANNE CASTLE’S WRITER SITE

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39 Comments Add yours

  1. Luanne says:

    Reblogged this on Luanne Castle's Writer Site and commented:
    Adrienne Morris kindly posted a story I wrote about my dad’s birthday (relates to Christmas, too) on her blog. I hope you enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This one has special resonances with me. We have five birthdays within a few days either side of Christmas. I suggested that the granddaughter who I thought needed it the most should share my July 7th date to even things up a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Luanne says:

      Derrick, I love that idea! And then you get a better birthday celebration , too ;). I am a July birthday, as well. Best month in some ways, although since we were out of school for the summer, my class never had cupcakes for my birthday. But I do really feel for people who have late December birthdays.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, I’m gonna say January birthdays are even worse here in the northern hemisphere. Dark, gloomy and no one is in the mood to celebrate. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Luanne says:

        LOL. We got married on January 5 and there was an ice storm, but January always feels so calm to me after December!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. One son on 19th, one granddaughter on 20th; two grandchildren on 23rd. My brother on 30th is worse off – most likely to be forgotten after Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Luanne says:

        I think it is worse to be after Christmas!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My birthday is in early January. The weather is awful and everyone is broke. No one wants to celebrate. I started the half year celebration to be able to get a warm celebration so I definitely relate to this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luanne says:

      I love that you do the half birthday, Kate!!!! I hope you remind us on your blog when it’s time to wish you happy half-birthday!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Anyone who lives in the frozen tundra (so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and has a January birthday deserves two a year!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Luanne says:

        I would agree with that!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A wonderful story about love and family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luanne says:

      Sharon, thank you so much for your sweet comment!

      Like

  5. Not sure what happened to my earlier comment, hopefully this won’t post twice.
    Oh my, break out the Kleenex! I loved this story, Luanne. I especially enjoyed your father’s reaction to the surprise party. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    1. I know, Jill! I choked up on this one and that’s a rare thing unless I’m crying for myself. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Luanne says:

      Hehe, love making people cry ;)! Thank you so much, Jill! Your books have been tissue time for me, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You had a wonderful mother Luanne! Such a beautiful story and one I can really relate to also. My youngest daughter has her birthday on 23rd December and I often thought of giving her an official birthday earlier in the year, but she never wanted to change it. I made sure as a child she had her day of celebrating her, inviting her friends and making very sure her birthday gifts and Christmas gifts were separate and not reduced, combined or anything else cruel like that. We were talking about it a couple of days ago for, as an adult she would rather ignore her birthday and I wonder if it is because it comes so close to Christmas….. I still think she should have an official birthday and a privately held family one also – two celebrations annually for a wonderful person is not too much I think!
    Thanks for your inspiring story Luanne, I’m going to pass it on to my daughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My best friend growing up had a grandmother who always bought normal Christmas gifts for everyone except her. She would get a cheap bar of soap. I guess this is the opposite of being compassionate about birthdays and Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a tragic grandmother!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Luanne says:

        What is WRONG with some people?!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Luanne says:

      Pauline, so nice of you to think of that for your daughter! Yes, maybe try a small celebration at first and see how she likes it?! Some of us are a bit put off by our birthdays later in life (hahahahaha, ok, that would be me). Once I realized I was getting older, I would burst into tears upon opening a gift from the gardener or my kids. I’ve trained myself out of that, but I don’t like marking off the birthdays as fast as they come! That said, if my birthday was right around Christmas, I think I would really appreciate my family doing this for me!

      Like

      1. I’ve decided to have another try at convincing her to have an official birthday, like the Queen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think you could convince of most things if it made me more like a queen!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Luanne says:

        Good luck with this!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. She ‘might’ have a mid winter party and official birthday 🙂 The thought just has to percolate. Thank you for the inspiration – she really related to your dad.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Luanne says:

        woohoo!!!!!!!!! Let me know what she decides!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Lol. I used to say I didn’t care if people celebrated my birthday but when they took me at my word there was hell to pay. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Luanne says:

        I so get this. For me I want someone else to make the effort. I don’t want to have to drag them into the idea, if that makes sense ;).

        Like

      8. Makes a lot of sense to me. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. merrildsmith says:

    What a sweet story! I have friends who celebrate half-birthdays. I’ve never minded my December birthday–except for last year when it snowed and we had to cancel our plans. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luanne says:

      I hope people don’t get snowed in for Christmas and birthdays this year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. merrildsmith says:

        I had snow for my birthday last year, but rain this year. I think it’s supposed to be nice now for the next few days through Christmas. In this area, it’s more likely to be snowy in January and February.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Once my sister and I saw a UFO on my birthday during a snow storm … seriously don’t know what it was but it was creepy.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Rae Longest says:

    Lovely family story. I just luv family stories.

    Like

    1. Me too! Thanks or coming by.

      Liked by 1 person

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