Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)
TITLE: December Baby
By Robyn Burke
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It was a Saturday. Chore Day. We all had our cleaning assignments and this time it was my responsibility to dust the china cupboards. Boor-ring! I was ten with a vivid imagination so it wasn’t long before I was inventing funny little ways of dusting to make it more entertaining. How close could I go around the teapot without actually having to lift it? Could I mix up mom’s salt and pepper shaker collection and see how long before anyone noticed it? But the thing that I was really thinking about was the china cabinets’ bottom drawer. That is where mom kept photo albums and our baby books. We were not really allowed to dig through this drawer without her permission and that meant, without her presence as well.
I was done with the dusting and not eager to report back for a new chore and the drawer was partially cracked open. I loved to look at my baby book. I was fascinated with the envelope that contained a lock of blond hair that had somehow come from my now brunette head.
As I probed the drawer for my baby book, I saw something in there I had never noticed before. A white box that held a small album. I pulled it out and flipped it open. It was a memorial album.
On the mantle in the living room, Mom kept a row of baby pictures of my siblings and me. So I had always been aware of the “missing” sister. Her name was Debby and she died before I was born. This was her album. Morbid curiosity demanded my full attention. But before I could get too far into the book, my eyes fell on a page that listed some vital statistics. It showed her date of birth, and her date of death. It was the second entry that did it. Her date of death was listed as the same day of my birth, only two years apart. I sat back, stunned trying to process this in my ten year old mind.
I heard mom’s voice and quickly, so as not to get caught I put the book back in the box and pushed the box to the bottom of the drawer.
I didn’t say anything to anyone about my discovery for a long time. It shaped me however. Sometimes I felt burdened by the responsibility of being some sort of "replacement" for my sister. Sometimes I felt resentful. And I always wondered how it must have made my parents feel. But I was an adult with children of my own before I ever ventured to discuss with my mother.
We had just finished eating birthday cake (mine) and the rich chocolate had mellowed us. We were looking at a family photo album. Choosing my words carefully, and before I could chicken out, I asked mom how she felt that day I was born, knowing the date was also the two year anniversary of Debby’s passing.
Mom was quiet for a few moments and I began to regret my asking. But then she looked up from the page and spoke.
"When Debby died, it was as though a light had been extinguished. Christmas came and went that year without us. And the next. We couldn’t bring ourselves to celebrate. Your dad and I talked a long time about whether we should have another child or not. When I found out I was pregnant again, we both felt it was a gift from God. And when you were born on her ...” her voice faltered, “When you were born, it was a very special day. It was the day we got the light back in our home.”
I was kneeling beside her now, our tears mingling together. “Our Christmas light.”
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