Happy January Birthdays

January, a month of fewest births and most deaths, is where we stand fighting the latest variant of Covid. How wearying to be still writing about this unwelcome virus. But like glitter left from wrapping paper or cards, it won’t be dusted, swept, vacuumed, washed, or wished away. Lots of people have stories about trying to rid the nasty stuff from clothes or rugs or skin, but no one really knows the secret to beat the stuff. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay inside, but the hated Covid, like unwanted glitter, stays in the air. 

Our family has a tradition of January births, even among in-laws. The older generation of January birthday holders has mostly passed, many on December dates, but there are four of us who are happy to celebrate. Birthday cake is a nice treat after holiday chocolates and cookies. Maybe there’ll be one more chance to get that sweater or book that wasn’t under the Christmas tree. Even better, everything is discounted and can be bought for yourself with little guilt. Even if there can’t be a party, there are safe ways to gather family or friends. If all fails, Zoom offers forty free minutes to talk with your relatives in sunny Florida. 

“In the Bleak Mid-Winter” by Christina Rossetti and Gustav Holst often runs through my mind at this time of year.  Rossetti’s beautiful words describe winter: “Icy wind may moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like stone…” and that often experienced January weather of “Snow on snow on snow.” As soft and gentle as January is icy and lonely, versions by Sarah McLachlan and James Taylor and others fill my blue light time when it is neither day nor night. You have to sing through to the end of the song for its encouragement that “as empty as I am (of gifts for the Baby Jesus), I must give my heart.” 

That is a magic message. If our basic physical needs are met, then we can push through January, holding each other tight inside our hearts until free once more to meet personally during spring’s warmer days. Until then call a friend, send a note, take a walk. We’ve figured this out and know how to make the weeks pass. In honor of the friends and family who are no longer with us to celebrate these January birthdays, I will treasure mine.


September 9th 477Picking up flowers for Crystel’s 13th birthday I realized how true it is for me that I live my past through my kids.

I don’t remember my 13th birthday.

I don’t remember my mother ever buying me flowers.

Of course, she had 12 children and buying flowers wasn’t on the top of her grocery list. Even remembering all of the birthdays was challenging for her.

That’s why Antonio and Crystel get a birthday week with a gift each day. It’s my do-over.

Two years ago, Crystel traded in her birthday week for an Amazing Race birthday party complete with clues, drivers, and unknown destinations.

All of us had so much fun that I didn’t even wait for her to ask this year.

I started planning an Amazing Race birthday weekend nine months ahead of time at Briggs Farm in Winona for both Antonio and Crystel. Their birthdays are only six weeks apart. The surprise Mankato Mud Run the next day was declared the highlight of the race by the participants.

Mankato Mud Run

Mankato Mud Run

This upping the ante started when their first tooth came out. It wasn’t a quarter under a pillow. It was a treasure hunt with clues written by the tooth fairy that led to a final gift. Some people warned Jody and I that once you start big you have to keep it going. That never bothered me. I didn’t want to stop. Perhaps I was doing a do-over for the tooth I lost on Christmas Eve one year. I figured that the stuff under my pillow was the same stuff that was in the other kids Christmas sock.

Not to say my mom didn’t try she did.

My favorite birthday was when I was 4 and I got a gun. It wasn’t a real gun but still my four older brothers wanted it and took turns shooting at the target across the room. Finally when they went to school I got to use it. Probably good it wasn’t real because when I did get my hands on a BB gun I shot one of my brothers just above the eye. Later when I was 12 and received a 20 gauge shotgun, I shot the pickup two brothers were sitting in. Accidentally, of course.

As I carry the flower bouquet to the car I think of how some things don’t require a do-over. Guns, for example. I’ll take them to a shooting range for that.