Yesterday was 3M's 21st birthday (and just between you and me - when did I become old enough to have three of my children be over 21?). To celebrate the occasion, his godfather and I will join him tonight for his first alcoholic beverage. At least, his first legal one. (*sigh*) The number of times we’ve run into each other at the liquor store reminds me not to lay more significance on the event than it deserves. . .
We’ve always had a bit of fun with the fact that my first son’s birthday is two days after mine. On occasion, we’ve even had our birthday observances combined.
What’s more, both of us were born in leap years, so we both missed, by a matter of days, being born on ‘Leap Day’, February 29th. Being the odd ducks that we are, Molly and I always harbored a secret hope that among our children would be red-haired, left-handed twins; a February 29th birthday would be icing on the cake. We do have some left-handedness among our kids – 4M writes left-handed, but throws right-handed (given that degree of ambidexterity, I insisted that he hit lefty in baseball); and 8M is still pretty ambidextrous. But, alas, no redheads (and given the red highlights in my beard - at least before it went gray - we had some hopes). And no twins. At least, not yet. ;)
I did know a girl in college whose birthday was February 29th. So every year, we would gather at her room at 11:59 PM on February 28th to sing Happy Birthday to her, ending just after midnight on March 1st, figuring that somewhere in there was her birthday. (The same girl told us how, when she was in high school, she counted the time from her parents’ wedding anniversary to her birthday. Counting only 8½ months, she confronted her mother with the damning evidence; her mom responded, “Do you think you could maybe give us the benefit of the doubt for two weeks?”)
Anyway, when Molly’s due date with 3M was in early March, we instantly began hoping that he’d be a few days early, and come on the 29th (save on birthday parties that way, dontcha know). As the calendar passed into late February, we began to wonder if there was anything we could do to bring the baby into the world on the desired day. We talked about going for a drive on back-country gravel roads. As the weather warmed up, we even talked about going for a bike ride. We never did any of those things, but they were at least fun to talk about.
February 29th came and went, without so much as a false-labor contraction, nor any dilation. So we moved our focus on to the possibility that our baby would be born on my birthday (which was my 32nd that year).
My younger sister and I actually share our birthday (technically, I suppose she’s my step-sister – my mom’s daughter from her first marriage – but I’ve only ever called her my sister), which was the occasion of some teasing between us over the years. When our folks were first married, and our new family was very new, I used to tease her that it couldn’t be her birthday, because I had it first (she’s two years younger than me). But every year, Mom would make two birthday cakes. I don’t remember how the birthday parties went most years, but I do recall one year, my sister and her friends had a birthday party upstairs, while my friends and I had one in the basement, at the same time. God bless my mom for that. . .
Anyway, returning to the main story, my birthday, too, came and went without event. So at that point, the pressure was off; none of the subsequent days carried any special significance, and 3M was born two days after my birthday. Which, as it turned out, was his exact due date. And having a boy after two girls was nice, in its own way.
Of course, the birth of a child invokes all manner of hopes for the future, and wondering who the new little person will turn out to be. And, over the subsequent 21 years, his life, and ours, have gone places that we never would have imagined (much less hoped for). And that is just part of the richness of being human, isn’t it?