Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day that will live in infamy

So yeah, I share a birthdate with a national disaster.

Lots of people do. There are a lot of people in this country, and a lot of national disasters. I once dated a guy born on 9/11, for instance; it was years before 9/11 became a national disaster, and he was Muslim.

I can't help but think of him when the remembrances and the tributes start up. Nice guy. We broke up gracefully. He doesn't deserve to have all the 9/11 baggage on his birthday--turning a year older is baggage enough, as is his religious affiliation.

There's a difference between being born before a national disaster that happens on your birthday, and being born well after the disaster occurred. I never owned 12/07. It was always Pearl Harbor Day. I'd wake up on my birthday, and hear FDR's speech about how this day--my day--was a date that would live. In. Infamy. Really, I was probably one of the few 4 year olds to know what 'infamy' meant. I grew up associating my birth with a national disaster. Most kids think of cake and presents when they think of their birthday. I thought of sinking ships and dead soldiers. Instead of ice cream, I thought of bombs. Instead of pinched cheeks, I thought of the Bataan Death March.

My great-grandmother, Ruby, lived just down the alley from a man named Buford when I was a kid and she was alive. Buford shared my birthday. He also served in WWII. Buford once owned 12/07. Then one day he didn't own it anymore. He told me, "Rough stuff. I wasn't there but I served with men who were. I was having a party when it happened. I haven't had a party since."

Here's what happens on my birthday, usually: Everyone in the media talks about death. There are reverent anecdotes about fallen soldiers, harrowing recreations of the Japanese attacks, and brief synopses of the whole of WWII. Pictures of burning bodies/buildings/cities. Shots of mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (heh, we paid'em back real good). All day, politicians weigh in with their "thanks to the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Buford never paid the ultimate sacrifice, obviously--he was alive several years after WWII to tell me about it. He said of WWII, "I hated it."

He also said of our shared birthday: "I wish I'd been born a day later." Which was fine, of course, because he wasn't a Beatles fan. I was. And I knew that if I'd been born a day later, I'd have John Lennon's death to deal with.

Anyway. So. To those of you who must share a birthday with a national disaster, I understand your ambivalence. It's weird, always so weird, to wake up on the day that's supposed be your day, your one special day, the one day you own, and hear about tragedy and upheaval and absolute, no-going-back change. If you were born after that day of national disaster, you get used to it. But if you're like Buford or the Muslim guy, and had a few years of owning the day before it came to mean something else entirely... well, I almost understand what it must be like. At least you had a good run.

Also, there's this: I was born in December, near Christmas. My brother was born in March, near Easter. Mozart died on the fifth of December. Delaware became a state on December 7th, 1787. John Lennon was (of course) shot on December 8th, 1980. The first person to die by lethal injection bought the farm on December 7th, 1982. Willa Cather was born. Cicero died. Thornton Wilder died. And Buford was born at some point, and it was a day that will live in infamy.


SCoats said...

Well, now I kind of feel bad about wishing you a Happy Pearl Harbor Day yesterday.

MM said...

No need :)

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