December 23, 2014 by kittynh
My mom was born on December 25th.
The only people that have a worse birthday date are those born on December 24th and December 26th. At least a 25th birthday brings with it some distinction. My mother might disagree, but being born on Christmas Day is something people will remark upon.
My mother of course, has long suffered from her birthday. She is old enough to be a depression baby, and there was nothing family and friends during a depression liked more than giving a combination birthday and Christmas gift. Even today, few of her family and friends remember to do more than say “oh and Happy Birthday!”.
I grew up seeing mom perhaps getting one gift each birthday NOT in holiday paper. A few times a real birthday card would show up. Sometimes, stores will sell a card that says “Happy Christmas Birthday”. Trust me, don’t buy that. Everyone else will buy that card and the Christmas birthday sufferer just gets a lot of the same card.
We would always attend Christmas Eve service at our church. Every year I would hear everyone, including Father Taylor, joke “You and Jesus! You sure must be special!”. I can honestly guarantee that my mother started to hear that joke right after she was born. Probably right in the delivery room.
As I have grown up I have tried to make it up to her. I try to remember to wrap at least one gift in birthday theme paper. She rarely has a birthday cake, but I’ve tried to make sure she knows her birthday is important. Now that my mom and step dad are thinking of moving to a retirement home, they really don’t want much for the holidays. They are downsizing, so that makes gift giving of any sort difficult.
I was wondering what to get my mother for her birthday, when I received a lovely letter in the mail from a l charity that solved my problem. You see while my mother’s birthday is December 25th, no one knows my grandmother’s birthday. My great grandmother died while bravely saving her 4 children from a house fire. She suffered horribly, dying slowly from her burns.
My grandmother Evelyn Sinclair, and her sister Nora, were taken in by the “Home for Friendless Children” in Easton, Maryland. That has to be the worst name for any orphanage. The girls had their father, but he worked on the railroad and was gone from home often. While relatives took in the two boys, the girls were sent to the “Home for Friendless Children.” The problem was that during all the sorrow of the death of my great grandmother, and finding a home for the children, no one remembered just when my 2 year old grandmother was born. The best they could do was “sometime in January”.
This turned out to be a good thing for the girls. The orphanage, run by the Episcopalian Church, was wonderful and every girl received an excellent education. The mission of the home was that each girl would graduate with the ability to make a living. These girls were not raised to be just wives and mothers, and although they were taught sewing and cooking skills, they were raised to be able to support themselves. My grandmother became a nurse, a career she loved until her retirement. Her sister Nora became a teacher. Both married and became mothers, but also were committed to their careers.
Orphanages are now a thing of the past, but the Episcopalian group that helped run the excellent (if poorly named) orphanage still helps girls in need. The group now helps young women by providing scholarships for vocational or career training. They also provide camperships for summer vacations. The role of the mission has been expanded to include scholarships for older women.
I was so pleased that the belief behind the mission is still the same. Education and training for women is the the key to women escaping poverty. When my grandmother entered the orphanage in the 1910’s, this was radical thinking. The success of the orphans who went on to good careers proved that the mission of educating women orphans, not just housing and feeding them, was important. This year I’m glad to support with a donation the successor group to the orphanage in their goal of educating women.
The Children’s Home Foundation of the Eastern Shore of Maryland (CHF) can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. So this year donation in the name of my mom and grandmother will be made for my mom’s birthday. While a religious organization, our family owes the Episcopal Church much, and if anyone else would like to support women’s education and training, please feel free to contribute.
Happy Birthday Mom! (and just mom)