"When are you going to have children? "Ackkk! For all newlyweds of childbearing age, this is the dreaded question. For their parents it's the verbalization of the thought, "When will you make me a grandparent?"
When my mom asked me this question she followed it up with a caveat."If you're planning on having children in the winter [in Minnesota], don't plan on my coming when they're born or for their Bar Mitzvah in the winter." Since I was always a dutiful child, my children were all born in July and August. Mom, true to her word, was there to help after they were born and came for all the summer b'nai mitzvah. Leslie, who was never so rule bound, had her first in November--close to winter-- and Mom did make that trip as did her Virginia Beach in-laws.
Our Mom was not so thoughtful in arranging Leslie and my birthdays. We are the children of deep, dark winter.Leslie's birthday is Dec. 26 and mine is on Jan. 3. Leslie was the youngest in her class and I was the oldest, which has been defining in so many ways. Aside from the dark and cold, there was always the dread that our birthdays would be caught up in Hanukkah or ignored in the post holiday fatigue. Our birthdays arrive just as the news media gears up to report the deaths of the past year. We've already contemplated our mortality at the beginning of the Jewish year which is reinforced daily by the usual accessories of aging from thicker glasses to new teeth.
When Leslie and I took a beach walk (in San Diego, not Minneapolis) on her birthday this past week, she reminded me that she's never had to go to school or work on her birthday. With a January 3rd birthday, I was almost always back in school or back at work and the celebratory mood had passed. Leslie has grown accustomed to spending her birthday on a fabulous vacation surrounded by family though sometimes, she has had to share this significant occasion with me, when my birthday celebration is preposed lest I be forgotten in the busy first week of the year when we all have scattered.
We know we are fortunate that our parents decided to institute a family trip during winter break decades ago.Nothing is drearier than celebrating a birthday in Minnesota in the frozen days following the winter solstice.The idea of going out means gearing up in down coats, woolen sox, lined boots and dressing up in long underwear.It's exhausting just to get out the door.And what if it has snowed—even with a plow service, it means shoveling the compacted snow the city has plowed in front of the driveway.
Our parents ensured that our bodies were warm—for many years on the big island of Hawaii—and our spirits were lifted by the sway of palm trees and the sound of the ocean's waves.But what they really wanted to ensure was our connection to one another and having a treasure chest of collective memories. We miss our Dad even more than usual on our winter birthdays.His sunny disposition dispelled the darkness wherever he was.
We sound more and more like our Grandma Rae—all we want for our individual birthdays is good health for the next year and for our children to flourish. There is already a new generation and hope of more to come.
Any season is the right season for a birthday. We wish you all a happy and healthy new year and the addition of many wonderful memories to your family treasure chests.