When they told me my first child was due on Dec. 18, I thought, “Oh, hey someone else I knew was due on Dec.18,” and then I remembered that it was me and I was born on Christmas Day, as was my maternal grandfather – and indeed my first child was born on Christmas Eve, causing my then-husband to remark as we left the hospital, “Hey, parking was free, good one.”
It was a magical time.
I didn’t plan it that way at all. My math skills are so poor that had I set out to have a Christmas baby, my baby would have been born in July. Although, really, I’m so insecure about my math skills that had that kind of stunt-birth truly been my aim, I’d likely still be sitting on the edge of the bed gestating over and over again on my fingers. There I’d be, ovulating with the thumb, counting from there, feeling blessed as I counted that the months of a human pregnancy are less than the sum of my two hands, thinking it must be tough for elephants, then just thinking about elephants and their stumpy digits – do elephants have digits? – and then forgetting which month I was on and starting all over again.
I thought about this about six months back when my friend, comic and writer Charlie Demers announced that his wife, Cara Ng, a project director at the University of British Columbia, was expecting a baby on Dec. 22. Their news was met with a wave of condolences from many of their friends and some veiled accusations that the two of them had indulged in some pretty inconsiderate March sex.
Happy birthday to all the lucky Christmas babies, I say. We who never had to go to school on our birthdays, and who get that perverse appetite for pity people have sated at a young age (if I had a present for every time I’ve been asked, “But what about presents?” in an alarmed tone, I’d have a stadium full of presents – which is pretty much what every middle-class child in North America gets anyway).
I don’t recall feeling I was missing out because my birthday was on Christmas Day, but then my mother made a point of organizing a lot of special activities for me to do on my birthday – like peeling potatoes.
There was also this fun game my family played where everyone carried on as though they’d forgotten it was my birthday until all the wrapping paper had been burned in the fireplace and all the weird discounted chocolates my grandmother had sent from South Africa had been pierced in the middle by a rightly suspicious finger ... at which point someone would pretend they’d just remembered it was my birthday and wish me a happy birthday apologetically. Oh, how we would laugh!
Was that game a lie? Maybe. I don’t care. The only lie you shouldn’t tell a child at Christmas is marzipan. It is true that I was always the child who got to put the angel on the top of the tree when the tree went up.
I was the one who got to put rubber baby Jesus in the manger on the 25th – removing our Saviour him from whatever ignominious spot he had been stashed for safekeeping while the three wise men made their circuitous month-long journey around the house, up and down the stairs, joined occasionally by all-green army men and a colourful plastic menagerie engaging in some fierce battles, before joining us in the bath.
Sometimes the camels were galled, sore-footed, refractory, lying down in the melting snow. Sometimes they were happy and soapy and drifting toward the tap end and Mary rerode into Bethlehem on a gorilla. Sometimes rubber baby Jesus slept behind the mandarin-box-come-stable we’d laid out and strawed up. Sometimes he would bide his time on an ashtray on the mantel.
He did not fuss, I noticed. He understood that this is what it meant to be born on an occasion, not a mere date.
I cannot think of a better time for Charlie and Cara’s baby to be born, which is when she will be in the same city I was born, as a matter of fact.
“We’re thinking of naming the baby ‘Vancouver,’ because she’ll be half white, half Chinese, and we can’t really afford her,” Charlie has said. Every single thing about this seems perfect to me. Merry Christmas.