My birthday is on January the second.* When I was very young, I believed that the only reason January 1 had to be there was so my busy parents could ready our house for my birthday. I thought of January the second as a wondrous, shiny, brand new date, so much mine that I couldn’t imagine anybody else could dare to claim it. When later I met a woman who told me she was born on January the second I glared at her as if she were a thief. But after the fifteenth or sixteenth one, my January the second birthday began to lose some of its sparkle, coming as it did at the rump of holiday celebrations, obliging exhausted people to start up again when they thought they were done until next year. Once I understood that my birthday was not only about me, I began to apologize–just a small, whispered, foot-shuffling mumble–for being born when I was. At first I was being polite, knowing people would say don’t be silly, it’s your birthday, it’s not your fault, silly. But after January the second had come around 25 or 40 or 50 times, and everyone was even more exhausted, I meant it more.
Now more than three score years and ten of my life’s birthdays lie strung together behind me, measuring out my life. I realize more fully than ever that I can’t be too certain there will be another birthday–that the string that has connected all the birthdays of my life will hold long and strong enough to include another January the second. But there is a January the second today. And I don’t apologize anymore. // Hazel Kahan
*In my mind this date is always spelled out in full–no disrespectful abbreviation like Jan 2, or even January 2 here!