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By Hollee Chadwick

I am a Christmas Baby.

Actually, I am a "was due on Christmas Day, but arrived four days earlier on the darkest and shortest day of the year" baby. December 21st. Nevermind the year. My father reminds me of this fact-the dark day thing-as often as possible. I think he means "dark" in the spiritual, not literal, sense of the word.

I was still dubbed "Hollee," despite my lack of timing. (Yes, it is spelled correctly. The two e's have something to do with my great-uncle Lee-Beverlee, Kimberlee, Hollee . . . get it?)

Anyway, as all Christmas babies will tell you, as far as the number of gifts received goes, my birthdays were sometimes lacking. Never forgotten, mind you. Remember, my dad gets a kick out of that dark day phenomenon. Okay. If truth be told, and all whining aside, all five of us kids had pretty slim birthdays.

Times were tough.

Most 40+ year-olds I've met have their own tales of a near-poverty childhood-newspapers in shoes, trudging miles to school in 6 feet of snow, etc. None of it really happened. We've just inherited the childhood stories of our own parents, who inherited them from their parents and on and on ad infinitum. I figured this out when I heard my brother tell his four daughters about having to weave his ownclothes from fig leaves.

As fate would have it, my middle child was born three days after Christmas, 1979.

I felt the first "creature stirrings" of labor on Christmas Day. The clatter of my little "reindeer's hooves" didn't hit full stride until December 28th. Then, WHOOMPH-she appeared. (I won't use the chimney analogy here-I have my pride.)

Oh, you should have seen her, my new daughter, Amanda Rachel. She was chubby-cheeked, red, and roaring. Her tightly clenched fists were vivid reminders of the in-utero thrashing she gave me every night while I was trying to sleep. She frowned up at me, set her mouth in a grim line, and, I swear, blamed me that she'd missed Christmas Day.

But we rejoiced over her, regaled her with praise, showered her with gifts, filled her bed-and her head-with elves, reindeer, snowmen, and Santa. And by the time she was a day old she didn't remember she'd missed the "big day."

She blossomed into a roly-poly, curly-haired, laughing baby who filled everyone with delight. Her older sister, Sarah, (older by only 17 months!) doted on her, dragged her around, and showed her the ropes.

Amanda was my "big day" that year. Her birthday is my "big day" every year. That frowning, tight-lipped, fist-clenching newborn must have known then what I could not. She would grow to face serious physical and developmental problems and emotional hardships no child should ever have to endure.

And endure she did--and does. And still she fills me with delight and joy and wonder and peace. And pride. She turns 22 this year-December 28, 2001.

Amanda is my best Christmas ever. Every year.
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