It doesn’t matter if there’s 20 feet of snow on the ground. I am forcing friends and family out of their cozy homes next month, and we are going to spend a night in Niagara Falls to celebrate my 40th birthday.
The “Honeymoon Capital of the World” is like a desperate lover in sub-zero temperatures, trying to win us back with pitiful pleas. We’re getting a five-star hotel at a two-star price. Instead of the cheap “continental” breakfast with the stale muffins, they’re throwing in a hot breakfast. We have “two can dine for the price of one” dinner certificates. We’re getting all this because it’s the least wonderful time of the year. Finally, some birthday celebrations for me, a long-suffering winter baby!
I’m talking specifically about life as a Canadian winter baby, which includes plummeting wind chill, mountains of snow and deadly icicles hanging from eaves. Being a winter baby is particularly bad because the majority of us follow the most famous birthday of all in December. After Dec. 25, everyone is miserable.
And after New Year’s, everyone decides that they’re too fat and they’re busy exercising at a new gym. They’re angry and complaining because of hunger, sunlight deprivation and possibly seasonal affective disorder. If you bake a cake, don’t bring it to work, because you’ll only be accused of sabotaging their diets. This winter irritability means they don’t want to leave home, even if it’s your birthday. Or they can’t leave home: Their car is buried in their driveway.
“Sorry I can’t come over,” they will say. “But you understand. It’s so slippery out there.”
And I do understand (more than most), because I’m a winter baby.
I always sensed I was different than babies born in other seasons. There was more revelry at their parties. The fall babies were kicking around leaves and enjoying the temperate weather, remarking smugly, “Aren’t the trees so pretty this time of year?” The spring babies were high on life, with the new season promising a fresh start. Everyone was willing to go to their parties, wearing their new spring jackets and shoes without salt stains. And the most spoiled of all, the summer babies, would just sit on a patio drinking a cold beer, expecting everyone to show up, friends or strangers. And everyone did.
Even my birth was overshadowed by a snowstorm. When I ask my mom what it was like the day I was born, her memories are clouded by the weather.
“There must have been a hundred feet of snow that day,” she’ll say. “I couldn’t believe it!”
When I press for more information, she’ll say, “It was the middle of the night, and Dad and I were struggling to get your brothers and sisters into their snowsuits until I finally said, ‘Forget it! I’m taking a taxi!’ ”
“The roads were awful,” she’ll add.
I understand it. Although my mom always threw me a party, mostly I remember the snow. Unlike my friends’ parties that included restaurant outings or running around the neighbourhood, my parties were housebound, and involved playing musical chairs or pin the tail on the donkey.
What’s even more troubling is the lack of memorable adult birthdays. During my 20s and 30s, my friends didn’t put my picture in the paper under a flashy headline, or e-mail it to the morning news birthday segment, a free service. None of them took me out and bought me those disgusting Jell-o shooters that nobody likes.
I don’t remember my 39th birthday, but I suspect I shovelled snow earlier in the day and got into my fleece pyjamas by 7 p.m. I probably baked myself a cake, and then later went online and paid a hefty hydro bill.
Did I mention I hate winter? Of course I feel a personal attachment and loyalty to my date of birth. There’s something sacred about it, and I feel a sense of pride, as we all should. Having my birthday in the winter briefly breaks up the blahs, but the season is not for softies. I spend a lot of time shovelling, which is a form of torture for weaklings like me. Walking in the cold has been so painful at times that I’ve wanted to break down and sob, but I can’t because it’s too cold.
But it’s all going to change on my 40th. We will wrap ourselves from head to toe in wool and fur-lined coats. We’ll squint as the snow pelts our faces on our way to Fallsview Casino. There may be some complaining about the chill as we move on from casino to restaurant. But this 40-year-old winter baby will finally get the party she deserves. The kind of party that summer babies get. I’ll come away with more memories than there is snowfall. I hope.
But realistically, if the driving conditions are terrible, there will be no Niagara Falls. There will be no throwing away money in the coin slots. Don’t worry; I’ll get over it, because winter babies are like their season, fierce and strong. We’re not spoiled-rotten summer babies.
Elizabeth King lives in Hamilton.