I always felt bad for my dad who was born on December 22. His birthday was always either over shadowed by Christmas or ignored altogether. He got many joint gifts.
When I began working and was able to do something about it, I did. My parents split up when I was eighteen, and for my dad’s first birthday without my mom, my sister and I took him to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate. We almost never went to sit-down dinner places when we were young because my parents simply couldn’t afford it. Going to Outback was a rare treat, something we had done as a family only once before for my mom’s birthday years ago. The whole time during my dad’s birthday dinner he kept asking if we were sure we could afford to pay for it, and he kept skimping on what he would order for himself because he didn’t want us to have to pay. We encouraged him to get the steak he wanted and to add the mushrooms if he wanted them, that it was okay to get a Coke too. Once he relaxed we had a great time, and it became a tradition to take him out to dinner for his birthday.
When he turned 50, we wanted to make it a big occasion. We asked him where he wanted to go to dinner and he chose Red Lobster. Then my sister and I went to work, calling everyone in the family who could make it and even calling a few of his friends from the past that he hadn’t seen for years, including “uncle Ron,” one of my dad’s former co-worker he had lost touch with. It was a great night. Ever after my extended family was on the guest list for my dad’s birthday.
My dad is a really wonderful person, someone I admire a lot. He is so smart but he’s a bit of an agoraphobic person. He is only social and goes out if someone goads him into it but he’s a lot of fun when he agrees. I try my best to be the catalyst for him having a good time and I think his birthday is now something that not only he looks forward to but that my family looks forward to as well.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “The Parade”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “Trapped in the Turret”, JonathanThomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Captured by Squeebublians”
MOVIE: Growing up, I always thought of It's a Wonderful Life as my mom’s favorite movie, and one that I didn’t really care for. She’d watch it in the afternoons while she sewed buttons back on shirts or hemmed torn jeans into shorts. It was long and in black and white and it certainly didn’t appeal to kids. The scene in the beginning when the pharmacist slaps young George until his ear bleeds used to scare me.
It wasn’t until years later when I became interested in black and white movies that I watched it again and fell in love with it. (Funnily enough, my mom’s love of this movie was a deterrent for me to show interest in old movies. I didn’t want to be teased and “I told ya so”ed by her, so I tried to hide my interest at first until I was sure I liked them.)
My dad told me later that when he and my mom first started dating, they started talking about their favorite movies. He couldn’t remember the name of his, but he told her it began with the stars and an angel talking to God in heaven, and the angel being sent down to earth to help a man through a hard time. She said, “Well that sounds really stupid.” Years after that, they sat down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on TV and my dad told her, “This is that movie I was telling you about.” She said, “Oh, I love this movie!”
I adore Frank Capra. His movies embody hope, which is an essential part of life. He doesn’t skimp on harsh realities in his films, which is what makes the hopeful moments all the more powerful. This movie is especially wonderful because it shows that you have to take bad times along with the good ones and that you have to keep working for better things but if you take the time to notice all the good things in your life, you will forget the bad ones. And it shows that faith in God can get you through even the worst situations. I really love that this movie emphasizes how the everyman (played by the quintessential everyman—Jimmy Stewart) can make a difference in the world, even if it seems like it is only a small contribution.
SONG: “Christmas Blues” by the Dukes of Dixieland
GIFT MEMORY: My grandma is a collector, which is probably where I got my impulse from. For years she collected pigs because of a joke one of her kids made about her being a little piggy. One Christmas, soon after the movie Babe came out, she got a stuffed talking Babe with mice attached who would say phrases from the movie, our favorite being “What a pig!” Then she got rid of her pig collection and started collecting porcelain dolls. She had a huge display of them in the spare bedroom, dozens of white box shelves along the main wall with the center one working as a reading light. When my cousins and I stayed the night there, we’d marvel at the massive doll collection, but we were never allowed to touch it. Then, when I was a teenager, she gave the dolls away to us. She laid them all out on her bed and we got to choose them one at a time until they were all taken. Then she started collecting Longaberger baskets. We have many videos of her receiving items for her collections over the years.