The night I was born, a nurse brought me to my mom inside of a holiday stocking. It was just after 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
People sometimes remark about my birthday, at the doctor’s office or when I show my ID at a bar. “Does that suck?,” they ask, or, “Do you get two sets of presents?” I usually get a few of the things I’ve asked for for Christmas as birthday presents on my actual birthday, I say to the latter (wrapped in proper birthday wrapping paper, which I appreciate). The former is harder to answer because it’s all I really know.
As I grew older, my birthday became less a whimsical anecdote and more a logistical headache. If I wanted to have a party, I’d have to do it at least a week or so ahead, since most people (understandably) had plans with their own families for Christmas Eve. Themes, too, quickly became harder to come by. There was the year I had an ice skating birthday (admittedly pretty cute). Then the year we celebrated at our town’s indoor pool, after my surely consistent whining about how I’d never be able to have a proper, summer-y pool party. I remember it smelling strongly of chlorine and also being lame. One year I had a Titanic-themed party, which was timely but pretty tone deaf to the point that my cake had a half-sunken cake sticking out of it (yikes, mom). In my defense, I was only turning 10, and that film was very popular at the time.
By high school, we’d morphed my birthday celebrations into a hybrid birthday/New Year’s Eve party that involved setting off fireworks we’d driven across state lines to South Carolina to legally purchase. The mob of us would trek down the street to the expansive golf course we lived nearby, then we’d stuff the big colorful rockets and sparklers into the sand dunes, light the fuse and scamper away to watch the colorful sparks illuminate the dark winter air. But after a few stints of fireworks falling over and shooting towards bodies that darted behind trees in or ran away in terror, that too fell by the wayside.
These days, I still spend my birthday in my hometown (a Twilight Zone-esque scenario in and of itself), usually at a friend’s parent’s quiet holiday party or, if I get a wild hair, at some bar downtown after sending old friends a haphazard Facebook invite to meet me there. I spent many a Christmas morning lying on my parents’ piano bench, watching everyone open gifts excitedly as I suffered a debilitating holiday hangover.
Recently, I’ve found a few girlfriends in Atlanta whose birthdays also fall near the winter holidays. Last year, we banded together in early December and threw a party at a local dive bar, asking guests to bring donations for the less fortunate in lieu of shots. (No more holiday hangovers.) But through turning a new age just before the start of a new year, there’s a great sense of possibility that’s wrapped up in imagining what the next year might hold, and that in itself is a pretty great gift.