My birthday is on Christmas Eve.
It has always been thus, so I’m used to it. Unfortunately I’m also used to having to come up with some kind of friendly platitude every time a call centre operator gasps in horror when I furnish them with my date of birth.
But a Christmas Eve birthday isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s easy to remember, for one thing. I always receive plenty of good wishes from my friends – even those whose birthdays I accidentally overlooked during the year. Also, I am pretty much guaranteed Hubby will have the day off work. Plus, while I’m sure this time of year is special for most people, I like to think it has always been particularly so for me. As a kid it used to feel like a long time to wait between presents, but with a wedding anniversary and Mothers’ Day added to the mix this has become less of an issue. And let’s be honest, these days if I want a Barbie Fashion Face or a Family Tree House or a game of Snoopy Tennis I could just buy them for myself on eBay (and give them to my children for their birthdays). Easy.
A Christmas Eve birthday is actually kind of nice (especially since Hubby came to grips with my family’s strict “no joint presents” policy). “Who wouldn’t want to have their birthday on Christmas Eve?” I came to wonder…
Until the need for toy assembly sullied my world.
Four years ago, after leaving milk and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer and putting our daughter into bed under the watchful eye of her Nana, Hubby and I headed out for dinner and drinks with friends. It was lots of fun. But then we had to return home and deal with the presents. If you are planning to assemble a train set while three sheets to the wind, I don’t recommend it. Getting those tracks to loop around and reconnect can be surprisingly difficult.
Since then, I have refrained from enjoying a tipple on my birthday. Instead, I have spent my time assembling scooters, piecing together tricycles, and figuring out how to best wrap giant Mr Potato Heads.
Sadly, neither Hubby nor I are handy in any way. So the swing set languishing in its box against our side fence these last three months had been weighing heavily on my mind. Every time I drove the car into our driveway, there it was mocking me. Reminding me that yet again, my birthday was going to be marred by frustration, eye rolling, and a race against the clock. I knew what lay ominously ahead: a night spent under the house with Hubby – armed only with our wits and an Allen key – taking it in turns to swear beneath our breath about what must surely be a mistake by the manufacturer (but would invariably turn out to be our own stupidity).
So you can imagine my delight when on the 23rd December my Bestie and her wonderful husband, after hosting our family for a delicious BBQ birthday dinner, agreed to come back to our place and help us in our mission. The kids duly put to bed, we headed downstairs and worked as an efficient four man team for two hours and twenty minutes. No fighting, no stress, no claim of faulty goods. Just helpful discussion, profound gratitude and ultimately, success:
The next day, my whole body felt lighter.
Luckily Hubby had also just mowed our lawn and as our kids had never (I repeat, never) seen him do such a thing before, we were able to ban all downstairs play on Christmas Eve using some cockamamie excuse about loose grass. [They didn’t bat an eyelid, and it is possible they will now refrain from going downstairs the day after Hubby mows the grass for the rest of their lives. Fortunately I am confident this won’t prove overly restrictive.]
I felt great all birthday long. I had a smile on my face and a spring in my step as Hubby took me out to a romantic lunch. And instead of nagging our children to go to bed so that Hubby and I could spend the next six hours madly cursing at the unmade swing set and each other, we sang carols by the light of the Christmas tree until our eldest daughter heard sleighbells in the distance and rushed everyone off to bed lest Santa be forced to bypass our house.
As I think back over the years of Christmas Eve birthdays (all 38 of them), for the life of me I cannot recall a better present than the two hours and twenty minutes worth of badly needed help we received from our good friends on Sunday night. Even better than my new Sass & Bide dress, I think. And that’s saying something…