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A Tale of Two Christmas Babies: Sunday musings…12/27/2020

1 Snorlax. Appears to be an emerging nickname. For me, from Beth. Snorlax is one of my Man Cub’s Pokemon favs.

Apparently not a term of endearment.

2 “Sham”. Name of the horse who came in second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Imagine spending your entire “career” in the presence of greatness. Forced to compete against perhaps the greatest practitioner of all time in whatever it is you do. This was the fate of poor Sham. I read that his times in both the Derby and the Preakness would have won a majority of those races, ever, and yet they left him simply the best runner-up in history. If thus challenged, no matter what you do, how would you react?

In “Grey’s Anatomy” the drama-driven medical weekly filled with characters with more “extra” than not, the second fiddle neurosurgeon is tagged with a nickname that forever confers and confirms his status: “Shadow Shepherd”. His response? He simply soldiers on. Does his job. Does the best he can. Makes no effort to compete. Others do. The cardiac surgeons, for example, and pretty much all of the pretty young surgical residents (not a hair out of place on a one of them), they compete. Thus far in season 6 no one has won. Kinda like a regular Triple Crown season. They all race on.

And what of Sham? He of greatness with a lower case “g”? He broke just behind Secretariat in the Belmont and was quickly left behind. They say it broke his heart. Uninjured, it looked as if he’d lost the ability to run. The jockeys on the mounts who passed him said he literally was crying out in pain during the race. Crying out in anguish when most horses simply try to cram as much oxygen in and let as little out as they can. That’s what they called it.

He finished dead last, 48 lengths behind, never to race again.

3 Babies. As in Christmas babies. We anxiously await the arrival of our own Christmas baby. The Man Cub and his sister Buggie Bear are blissfully unaware of the upheaval on its way. Yesterday’s due date slogged on by and now we count the hours until our littlest girl makes her grand entrance. She’ll be a Christmas baby, her birthday hard up against the biggest gift giving holiday on earth.

How will she handle that when she is old enough to know?

I’ve told this story at least a couple of times over the years, but “Little L’s” birthday reminds me of a tale of two other Christmas babies. Two boys, as it were, but no matter; it’s the Christmas part that matters. Will she look upon her birthday as the greatest bonus in the history of Christmas? An extra day when only SHE gets a gift? Or will she feel that in some way her special day is lessened in the gifting to others occurring all around it? Somehow lost in other’s joy. And as I’ve grown older I will now also wonder if her reaction to being a Christmas baby will change as she, too, gets older.

This is a tale of two boys, now long-grown men, who were once Christmas babies. On born on Christmas Day itself, the other on Christmas Eve. I don’t think that tiny part made any difference in their stories. Both were as well-loved as their families were capable of loving. One was born into substantial wealth, family intact, the other into biting poverty and a family that would be riven by mental illness. I have no real insight, no eye-witness accounts of how their families dealt with the gifting aspects of the birthday/Christmas continuum, only the stories the boys/men told me. Their parents and siblings may have made a big deal over their birthdays, but then again, they may not.

The boy born into wealth felt somehow cheated. In his mind no one really cared about his birthday. No one acknowledged it. He lived long into adulthood feeling this way; the little boy who felt like no one remembered his birthday lived within the adult man whose success had made him much, much more wealthy than his family had ever been. He is a very hard worker, by all accounts the best boss most of his people ever had. All of his adult success was earned and deserved. And yet each Christmas, for as long as I knew him, he remained at least a little bit sad. He remembered the feeling of not feeling remembered.

My other friend, the boy born into a troubled family that descended into poverty, well, there was hardly ever anything remotely resembling a gift coming his way on either Christmas OR his birthday. Whether arriving on Christmas Eve as a birthday present or under the tree on Christmas morning, any gift that came was a source of pure delight. A surprise of the grandest type, since each year passed with no promise that it would be any easier than the last. He, too, is wildly successful. Also one of the hardest workers I’ve known and widely known as a wonderful man to work for. He has earned generational wealth. His reaction, then and now? He was, and is, truly and genuinely grateful for every gift, large or small, on any occasion.

He remains, to this day, an inspiration; the most grateful human being I’ve ever known.

Is there a lesson for us in this tale of two Christmas babies? Of course there is. A couple, actually. The first, of course, is to try our best to be as grateful as possible for any gifts, large or small, that come our way at any time. Even this year, this Annus Horibli that befell us. We have been gifted many times in many ways from many people. Truly. Almost none of us will ever know the kind of wealth that these two Christmas babies created, but we can know that we can be grateful no matter how much or how little we may have on any given birthday.

And we can think of our Christmas babies just a bit more around their birthdays than our other babies upon theirs, aware that this is a birthday that comes with baggage. We can lift them, be not only co-celebrants but also porters, carrying their bags for them a bit on their day. As I said, I do not know exactly how it went down for either of my Christmas baby friends on their birthdays when they were young. In the end it doesn’t really matter, eh? They are who they are; they feel what they feel. Still, we hold within our hands the ability to give the tiniest, grandest gift of all. In one tiny sentence we can tell them: “I see you. You matter. To me.” Just by saying “Happy Birthday” and nothing else.

Happy Birthday to my friends, the Christmas babies. I can’t wait to meet our “Little L” and wish her a Happy Birthday, too.

I’ll see you next week…

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