Happy Birthday, Jerry

Victoria here, requesting your indulgence as I range over several subjects inspired by today's celebration of my brother's birthday on December 28.  Like many people who have Christmas season birthdays, I guess he always gets the short end of the stick (and he will in this blog eventually).  I was five when he was born, and I remember wating eagerly for a new baby in the household, which I figured would be much like having another doll.
But I wasn't prepared to be taken away from my new cache of Santa-delivered bounty on the day after Christmas.  I went to my grandmother's without my wonderful new dollhouse, a tragedy to a spoiled little brat like me.  And Jerry took a rather long time to arrive, probably more to Mother's dismay than mine. It was one of those on-again off-again things which went on several days. 
 Eventually Mother and Daddy brought home a little doll for me, but one who seemed to cry a lot more than my toys did.  Nevertheless, I have always been proud of my little brother.  He has a wonderful wife, Pat, with whom I've traveled to Merrie Olde England.  A few years ago, we were there for the Harrod's after Christmas sale. What fun! Actually, Jerry and Pat are both enthusiastic travelers, and we've "done" London together. 
Thinking about those who have Christmastime birthdays reminded me of a story I loved in my childhood, The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin, published in 1888 (I was really quite young at the time!). It may have been read to me but I remember reading it myself leading up to Christmas.

It is the story of a little girl born to the Bird family on Christmas and named Carol. When she is about five or so, she is stricken with a serious disease. She declines and after a couple of years her family is aware she will die soon. As a birthday gift to herself, she plans a Christmas party for a struggling poor family of many children who are funny little rascals. The party is a success and that night, Christmas night, she dies.
It is not, despite that synopsis, entirely a sad story, and it was a vivid one for this little girl. It has just the right combination of melancholy, humor and hope.  At the ending, everyone has been inspired by the generosity and courage of young Carol Bird.
Some years later, I went to a play or a movie – can’t remember which -- entitled The Christmas Carol. I was prepared for the enchanting and melancholy story of Carol and her Christmas birthday party.
Instead, it was Dickens: Scrooge, Bob Crachit, Tiny Tim and the ghosts. I was heart-broken. How I wanted that sad sweet story of the Birds and not the mean old Scrooge.
Kate Doublas Wiggin (1856-1923) is probably best known as the beloved author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903), another of my favorites. Wiggins was a leader in the kindergarten movement in the US and wrote many other stories, mostly for children.
You can find The Bird's Christmas Carol in google books and elsewhere on the web.
So back to my brother Jerry.  He has also been an eager reader -- and I remember buying him several of his favorite books by Albert Payson Terhune for Christmas and/or his birthday. Terhune (1872-1942) was another popular author of children's books, including the series on Lad, the collie.  In fact, Jerry had a beautiful tri-color collie named Lad for many years.  I wish I had a picture of Lad -- but he did look much like the dog to the left.  Beautiful and gentle.
I read some of those Terhune books too. They were very popular, and probably still are.  Terhune raised collies at his Sunnybank Kennels in New Jersey. Part of the property is now a park in Wayne, NJ, and includes many of the graves of Terhune's famous dogs. Read more here.
 Lad's grave
Albert Payson Terhune with some of his dogs
Jerry and Pat, like so many working folks, have found their cats to be more practical pets than trying to keep dogs.  They are particularly fond of Siamese, partial to the traditional applehead variety more than the exaggerated features of some of the show-type Siamese. They've also rescued some street cats and taken care of many more. I always admire people who follow their convictions and actually work to prevent the spread of feline diseases and to support the efforts of humane organizations.


And just to relate this birthday blog back to our subject at hand, our mutual love for all things British, above are two of the wonderful magazines Jerry and Pat send us for Christmas each year.  If you don't know either of these, or any of the other BBC mags, try them out!  Hours of continuing delight all year long.
Here is what I send to Jerry -- and Pat gets Victoria (American but with a distinct British flavor).  Guess I have the better deal, right?
So happy birthday, little brother.  See, even in our approaching dotage, I will continue to tease you!  That's the nature of the game!

Labels: