The Day After Christmas

I usually post on Mondays, but this week’s Monday being Christmas and today being my father’s birthday, I wanted to post today. My father didn’t like having a birthday the day after Christmas. He felt he was shortchanged and overlooked. Maybe being a twin accentuated that feeling since he had to share a birthday not only (almost) with baby Jesus, but with a brother he shared his life with.

My father grew up quite poor with his twin, his older sister, and his single mother. I doubt there was too much hoorah for his birthday, although I’m sure Grandma would have tried to give them a good Christmas on Christmas Eve, in the German tradition. I imagine she made clothes for Christmas for all three children.

When I was a kid, my mother liked to make Dad feel better by celebrating his half-birthday on June 26.  We would go to Sears or Robert Hall and buy him a shirt and tie or something equally unimaginative and wrap it up in birthday paper. Mom usually made a cake, too, from a Duncan Hines box mix. (By the way, I just looked up Duncan Hines for the heck of it, and did you know he was a real man? Very interesting story on Wikipedia).

My father’s birthday always seemed a touch sad and anti-climactic, whether it was on December 26 or on June 26. An emptiness inside him wasn’t filled by whatever we did, and my mother was not one to prepare an exciting celebration. There were many wonderful birthday parties in their lives, but they were always planned by my extroverted father for my introverted mother.

I do think his favorite birthday gift was the year I made him a videotape of his life for his 80th birthday. The quality was appalling as I didn’t have the proper software or equipment. So much easier today to make a video! To make it, I had to watch hours and hours and hours of old videotapes (those hardcover book-sized videos) and digitize what I needed. It was painstaking work that took so many hours I wouldn’t want to try to count them up. This was pre-blogging days, needless to say.

The only thing that I didn’t get on the video that he would have liked was his bungee jump at age sixty as I couldn’t find a photo at the time. I always planned to add it in and edit the video when easier software became available, but I never got around to it before he died. Now it seems pointless.

Of course, when I went to look for the photo to post it here, it’s lost again. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Here’s an idea of how crummy the video was: this is the first 20 seconds. The reason that I chose this music is because my father used to put on a fake opera voice–much deeper than his speaking voice–to sing. He would sing “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Proud Mary.” This version of “Happy Birthday” reminded me of my father’s singing ;). Also, every year on my birthday (that we lived in different states), he would sing me happy birthday over the phone.

Very important: notice the post-it note next to the cake pan in the second photograph. That is my mother’s handwriting.

My father was always the one behind the camera, so it wasn’t easy finding him on video (which is why I had to use a lot of photos as in the sample above. When I watched him seeing the video for the first and second times, I noticed that he seemed happy and quizzical. The latter emotion was shared after the second viewing when he said, “I didn’t know I was so LOUD!”

Yes, he was. Dad was loud. And he loved a party. I’m just glad I made that video so that for once he had a really good birthday.

 

My father in his best role, Grandpa

At his favorite place, the lake (where he had to be quiet)

 

 

 

31 Comments

Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

31 responses to “The Day After Christmas

  1. Happy Birthday to you, Dad! I’m glad you got to make him the video!
    My older daughter calls on my birthday to sing Happy Birthday in a fake opera voice. It makes me laugh.

    My sister’s birthday is in November and mine is in December. My mom said between birthdays, Hanukkah, and Christmas–one year it seemed like we were getting presents every day because relatives were mailing them to us in Dallas, and then when they stopped we asked why there weren’t any more presents. (That’s her version. I don’t remember this.) Hahaha.

    • So you know what it’s like getting one of those calls haha! Often times he’d be singing to the “answering machine”!
      That’s a great story about you and your sister asking why the gifts stopped! It shows you how we get used to overflowing blessings pretty darn quickly. I have a lot of friends with December birthdays and BOTH my parents, as well as my nephew. Once Thanksgiving hits it was always one after the other for us. On the other hand, my birthday is in July, and while it was always beautiful weather and I love summer in Michigan where i grew up, I hated missing out on the school class birthday celebration. That always seemed so unfair ;).

      • I definitely know about the calls! My sister and her wife call and sing, and my husband and I do it for their birthdays–often in weird voices. When my younger daughter hasn’t been around, she calls and sings, too, and hers have sometimes been full real opera voice. Hahaha.
        Yes, I guess there are joys and problems with every season. 🙂

  2. What a lovely tribute to your father, Luanne. I like that your mother celebrated the half birthday on June 26th…that’s special. Happy New Year! xo

    • I wonder how many people do the half birthday celebration. I always thought it was just us when I was a kid, but as an adult I’ve heard of others doing it. Happy New Year to you, too, Jill! xoxo

  3. Your Mom was great to celebrate the half birthday even if her style was more subdued. Great tribute.

    • Yes, subdued and didn’t go to TOO much trouble, as that missing Y on the cake pan will show you (in the video). But she knew it meant a lot to him so really tried to make sure he was remembered a half year later!

  4. Lovely memories of your father Luanne. My wife’s birthday is on 19th December and it’s always difficult to celebrate a special time for her when everything around is all about Christmas – all the shows are Christmas shows, even going for a meal is Christmassy. But we always make a special effort to distinguish it from Christmas.

    • The 19th is in that difficult period, within a week before Christmas! when all the parties are going on! Poor thing, I’m glad you go out of your way to make it special for her! I am glad to be a summer baby myself ;)!

  5. Wonderful tribute to your father, Luanne.

  6. Beautiful Tribute to your dad, Luanne.

  7. Your father BUNGEE-JUMPED?!?!?! WOW what courage!!!! I couldn’t picture my own dad doing that in a trillion years!!!! Lol! Oh, and what a GREAT singing voice he has!!! I can easily imagine him singing in Broadway-musical-type shows, Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and the like! Wow!!!

  8. A lovely tribute to your dad. My mother’s birthday was December 24, and she always felt shortchanged too. We never thought of celebrating her at half-years. I wish we had. My son’s birthday is on Leap Day, February 29, and he always feels a little lost each year too, being the 29th only comes every 4 years. I’d always thought that made him special, but it doesn’t feel that way to him. His birthday falls between the cracks of time.

  9. Oh, Luanne, what a lovely post-Christmas gift you have given us, the gift of an exquisite family memory and of learning more about your dad and family. It must have been good to feel you could give him enjoyment through the video you made, however, disappointing the production value! I like the idea that your mom strove to make his birthday less sad by doing the 1/2 birthday in June. It’s such a world away for those of us who grew up in single-parent households where there wasn’t much money, and it reminds me of how fortunate I feel now to have the security of a stable and loving household. Thank you!

  10. I have never heard of celebrating a 1/2 birthday, and I like the idea! Interesting that you are writing about your father, and I like the way you do that, offering specifics to give us an idea about who he was. I have written one piece only about my dad, after losing him in 2009, and I notice that I am only just now thinking of stories, poems, and vignettes about him that I want to create. Nice job!

  11. Sending love and light, Luanne. Lovely tribute. xo

  12. That’s wonderful. I truly enjoyed this tale and video accompaniment. Lovely tribute to a proud voice. 🙂

  13. Great post and wonderful memories, Luanne. I wish I could do the same justice to my father. I loved the photo of your father in the boat on the lake. A great photo.

  14. Oh my dawgs, this one was so fun! (Yes, I’m going through my writer’s email account.) Families are a treasure trove of weird and often wonderful. 🙂

  15. Lovely memories, Luanne 🙂 🙂

  16. I arrived late, hope you had fun looking at happy photos and reminiscing in December, Luanne.
    I hope you had a special holiday season. I was sidetracked with Randy and weekends back and forth. . .
    I apologize for not stopping by.

    My daughter and her December birthday friends all asked for “half birthdays” 🎈 in junior high school.
    I did this willingly and even allowed her to have a couple of friends over in December. I did tell her friends, “no gifts necessary.”
    My birthday is in November, so I do understand the lack of uniqueness in a birthday close to Thanksgiving.
    I miss my Dad more in the summer, while traipsing around the places he liked, including beaches on Lake Erie.

    I went back and commented on I think 3-4 posts back. Take it easy, dear friend.

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