One of the things that my mother said she would never do is show favoritism with her children. We would all be treated the same, and in no ways would we be made to feel that mom preferred one of us over the other.
One of the ways mom insured this was to have her kids share the same birthday.
Since I am a twin she had two birthdays down, but my older sister, Barbara was born three years earlier on December 30.
Barbara swears by all things holy that when she was three she remembers mom, who was nine months pregnant, scrubbing the floors a few days before Christmas.
“What are you doing? Florence,” dad asked when he saw her scrubbing the wooden floors. “Do you want to have a miscarriage?”
No, mom said, she wanted to make sure that her baby would be born on December 30th the same that Barbara was born. (This was in 1941 when the sex of the child could not be determined, let alone the certainty of twin births.) But had mom known she was carrying twins it would only have doubled her resolve.
I never understood why she wanted us to share birthdays. (It was hard enough being a twin and having to share everything: School books, toys, and even a lunch box.)
Why was mom so intent upon seeing to it that we girls share our birthdays?
Aunt Violet suggested that one reason might be that it would be easier for dad to remember one day of the year and not three.
But she didn’t convince us with that logic because dad never wished us a happy birthday unless mom reminded him.
We always knew mom got to him first because he came into the room, a bit shame- faced, and announce in a loud false-cheery voice, “Happy Birthday Girls!”
We didn’t even get so much as an individual acknowledgment: We were all lumped together into “Girls.”
Did he even remember our names?
Having a birthday in the Christmas month almost guaranteed ‘combined’ Christmas and birthday gifts from our aunts’. The gifts wouldn’t be larger or cost any more, the only thing that distinguished them was the birthday wrapping and the fact that they were not to be opened until our birthday. (Yeah, sure. It’s a present under a Christmas tree, for cripes sake!)
In those days kids were not spoiled as many are now—expecting more gifts than they have fingers and toes, but back then we were happy with what we got. (My only concern was that I ‘got’ something of my own!)
Any “sense of entitlement” we might have–had more to do with the expectation that our socks matched when we left for school in the morning.
On the day of our birthdays Mom helped us ‘celebrate’ by baking a cake (we had to agree on the flavor, the color of frosting, and the number of candles) and then she’d give us our presents. (We had already opened our birthday gifts from our aunts.)
Often times mom’s gift was practical in nature: something we needed. She often wrapped up material for a school dress. Sometimes she’d put the pattern, thread, and zipper in a separate package so we’d have more than one gift to open.)
Call me selfish but opening a package and finding the material for a new dress was like being told to go into a soda fountain and pick out the glass for my doubled chocolate malt then instructed to wait until the ice cream order arrived the following week.
But that was back then, I see things a little different now that I’m older.
It’s been ten years since mom died. Ten years of no Mother’s Day cards or telephone calls wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day.
And ten years of knowing that I’ll never be able to do either ever again. .
After all this time, I think I’m finally beginning to understand why mom got down on her hands and knees and washed the floor so that my sister and I would be born all on the same day.
Mom knew that sharing a birthday would be sharing a bond between sisters that would last us the rest of our lives.
We might be separated in miles and even life choices, but we would always be together on our birthdays and Mother’s Day.
And she would join us, bringing her gift of unconditional love.