Every year about this time, my boss goes all Bah Humbug. Why? He’s a December baby. And of December babies, he was born at the worst possible time other than the actual day itself, Dec. 25, when you’re competing with the Son of God. Guess who’s getting the bigger birthday party.
Charley was born during the ‘tween days — after Christmas and before New Year’s — the post-Christmas decompression zone, when we collapse on the couch in our PJs, rejoice that all the festive folderol is done, and commit to scarfing down all the remaining Christmas cookies before the New Year’s resolutions kick in.
Last week, Charley’s cheerful, delightful, sunny wife, Sherri (who, in my opinion, deserves the perpetual Citizen of the Year award for not killing Charley in his sleep), was filling in for our proofreader at the Express office. She read Charley’s annual Bah Humbug column, in which he grumbles about winter and can’t wait until springtime, and commented that she never realized he feels so down at this time of year.
“Is it because of your birthday?” I asked, recalling his post-Christmas birthday.
“Yes,” he replied immediately, offering as evidence an Ann Landers column in which someone dared to comment that she felt disappointed because it seemed like her December birthday didn’t matter and that she always got dual Christmas-birthday presents. Ann snipped back that she should just shut up and be glad she got any presents at all.
Charley further noted that Ann was Jewish, so she just didn’t “get it,” and also that the best time to have a birthday was the middle of June — as far away from Christmas as you can get.
Me? Born in the middle of June, so I can’t relate to getting birthday snubbed. Also, I hate to break it to you, Chas: Birthdays can suck year round. On the other hand, just having another birthday is reason enough to be happy. Or, as Ann Landers might’ve said, just shut up and be glad you got to live another year.
All that said, I get it. Christmas in this country is so omnipresent, so over the top, so in-your-face beginning before we’ve even purchased Halloween candy, I can imagine that it’s pretty hard to get some birthday love when “the Holidays” are working up to a big red and green orgasm of comfort and joy on Dec. 25. It is just like sex… the closer you get to The Big Moment, nothing else matters but getting there. After The Big Moment’s over… nothing else matters at all. Other than not being the one to get stuck on the wet spot.
Poor Charley. Born on the wet spot of the year, between Christmas and New Year’s. No wonder he’s so grumpy (not only at Christmas, mind you).
We need birthdays. We really do. We need a day to be celebrated; an annual confirmation that others are actually glad that we arrived on the planet. Yes, we DO need birthday presents, dammit!
Of all the holiday babies, December babies have it the worst. Halloween babies get “trick or treat” jabs, but they still get birthday presents. Ditto for Thanksgiving babies, for whom parents are so thankful, and Fourth of July babies, who get fireworks displays bursting over their birthday cakes. Those holidays aren’t about presents, you see, so people can’t cheap out and give a two-for-one “Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas” present. Those other holiday babies will get a birthday present in happy yellow, blue and green paper, and another separate one in red and green paper in December.
But not December babies. Charley says he’s gotten more than one “Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas” gift.
Maybe he’s not so much a grump as he is a sad panda.
So. I have an idea: Please, could you take a moment to bring or send a birthday card to Charley Wallace, c/o the Winters Express, 13 Russell Street, Winters, CA 95694. A shower of birthday cards might brighten his mood. What a great surprise that would be! And it will be a huge surprise because he prides himself in telling people he never reads my column (I’ve worked for him for 23 years, so I suppose you must admire his commitment to continually reminding me of my insignificance — that’s tenacity), so don’t screw it up by telling him.
Do it. Please. Grab a birthday card at the supermarket or the drug store and drop it in the mail, of if you happen to be cruising through town, swing into our spiffy new Dollar General, where you can get birthday cards for a mere buck, and drop it through our mail slot. You won’t even have to buy a stamp, you cheapo.
Important: Not before Christmas! It needs to arrive during the December wet spot, just like Charley did: post-Christmas.
So, right about now, you’re thinking “Oh, that’s so sweet… look, she’s really a nice gal after all!”
Let me disabuse you of that notion.
I work with this man every day. I sit a mere 6 feet away from him, conveniently not within striking distance. Grumpy? Grumpy?? The understatement is almost criminal. You know who else deserves a perpetual Citizen of the Year award?
I also have not killed Charley in his sleep, and it’s not like I haven’t thought about it.
So, why this outpouring of concern for my boss? Because I’m hoping if we can cheer him up from his December Baby doldrums, he’ll be less grumpy. And if he’s less grumpy, I’ll be ever so much more happy.
So pick your motivation: Send birthday cards because you feel Charley’s pain, or send them because you pity me, but please just send them.
And if you write “Happy Birthday” on a Christmas card, you’re such a jerk.
(P.S. Charley, should your tenacity wane and you break down and read this, Happy Birthday. And if no one sends cards, just shut up and be glad you got to live another year.)
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com