No Birthday For Julia
Julia slipped in the back door, silent like a mouse so Momma wouldn’t hear her. School was over for the year and she didn’t want to talk to Momma about it. Tomorrow was her birthday and she didn’t want to talk to Momma about that either. Somebody else who was way more important was having his birthday tomorrow, too, and she was going to have to share it. Again.
She was gonna be eight tomorrow, and, well, she wasn’t sure how old baby Jesus was, because he was always a baby at Christmastime. Their birthdays went together every year, and she got bigger but he didn’t and everybody makes a fuss about babies. It made it pretty hard to share a birthday with him.
She could hear Momma talking on the phone, probably to Dad.
“… I still feel bad about this, hon. I know it’s been a hard year and all, but you sure we can’t manage?”
This was parent talk she didn’t want to hear, not the day before Christmas. Not when she knew it was about presents and the money they didn’t have for them. Her brother James remembered when they had money for presents – he would tell her sometimes just to tease her.
Like the kids at school. Most of them had birthdays while it was school time and they got parties and cupcakes for the day. Her and Rory, though, they had birthdays on the holiday break and so their cupcakes were just the winter holiday party. At least his was on the 29th, so he got proper birthday presents, not just Christmas ones. Didn’t stop the other kids from teasing them, and nobody remembered to bring her a birthday card.
Momma was going to keep talking until she thought someone would hear them, and Julia didn’t want to think about how few things were under the tree – just stuff from Grandmom and Aunt Lily. She hadn’t even put anything big on her list! So she sneaked the door open again and shut it again, loud so Momma would hear.
“… and she’s home, gotta go, sweetheart. See you tonight.”
But Julia didn’t want to talk. She hurried through the house, trying not to look at the tree, and right on up to the room she shared with James. When Momma called her down, she went and had dinner and made faces at her brother, who pretended to poke her and made faces back at her. Momma and Dad talked about plans to go visit the family the day after Christmas and Dad’s work, and they were trying to sound happy.
After dinner, Momma asked her about homework. Her vacation was just beginning, and Momma wanted her to do homework! It let her be in the kitchen with Momma, who was baking sugar cookies though, so it was ok. When Dad called her for bedtime, she went up right away, because the sooner she could get to sleep, the sooner she would be eight. And even if she had to share her birthday, she would get presents for Christmas.
The sun came in the window really bright in the morning, and when she looked out she could see the snow everywhere. It was on the tree and the roofs and the window ledges and everywhere! She put on clothes really fast and poked James until he woke up, so he could go outside with her. She closed her eyes as she went by the living room where the tree was because she didn’t want to see if there were any more presents from Santa.
James and Julia stayed out in the snow and made snowballs and threw them at things until Momma called them back into the house. She’d made them hot chocolate and there was pancakes to go with it. After a bit, Dad came in and ate with them. Then he said, “Did you see, kids? Santa was here! Do you want to go open your presents?”
Of course they did. Even if nobody said happy birthday to Julia, who was eight now.
James got her a little teapot with a sugar bowl, just like she had put on her list, but there weren’t any cups or plates. She gave him a big hug anyway. “Maybe Jesus got the cups and plates”, she thought.
Santa gave her some chocolate and pens and erasers in her stocking. He also got her the pretty pink coat she had put on her list, but not the matching hat. She put the coat on right away and walked around the room showing it off. It had been the fanciest thing on her list. Maybe it was just too much?
Grandmom had sent her socks like always and some pretty shoes, and Aunt Lily sent her a wood toolbox, but there weren’t any tools in it yet. Someday she’d get them, she was sure, and then she’d build all kinds of stuff.
Momma and Dad gave her a big baby doll, just like she had put on her list, but it didn’t have any clothes or the bottle or anything else. Momma looked at Dad, and said something really quiet. Dad looked sadly back at Momma and gave Julia a big hug. It would be ok, because babies liked not having any clothes on, she was pretty sure.
After opening presents, she and James and Momma cleaned up the wrapping paper and the boxes, while Dad went out and shoveled the snow. Then they all sat in the living room and watched movies about Christmas on the television and sang along with the songs.
Nobody said happy birthday to Julia, though. Maybe it was something that happened when you got to be eight … your birthday just got eaten up by baby Jesus. Maybe Momma and Dad and James just forgot. But there were sugar cookies, so she tried to just say happy birthday to herself.
She was so busy playing with her baby doll that she didn’t notice when her brother and parents slipped off into the kitchen.
“Happy birthday to you …”
And then they all came out of the kitchen together, singing. Momma was carrying a cake with candles on it and James and Dad were carrying some boxes. These boxes didn’t look like Christmas presents – they said “Happy birthday!”. They hadn’t forgotten at all!
She blew out all the candles and they all had cake. There was ice cream, too. Then Julia got to open her proper birthday presents.
The first one had a pretty dress in it, that went with the shoes. Then there was a box with teacups and plates, and a box with tools. After that, there were three whole boxes with clothes and a bottle and diapers and everything for the baby doll. Then she opened a box from Santa to find the hat that matched her new pink coat, and Dad looked at Momma a bit funny. Even Santa had remembered her birthday!