I was born September 17, 1972.
I have always liked being a September baby.
Well, for the most part I liked it.
Both of my siblings had summer birthdays. They never had to think about going to school, taking a test, or doing homework on their birthdays. I have to admit that sometimes I would feel a slight twinge of jealousy about this.
However, the truth is I generally didn’t mind going to school on my birthday. My elementary classmates sang The Birthday Song to me most years. Sometimes my friends brought me a gift to open on the playground. Other years, my mom would allow me to have a friend come home after school, especially if my birthday fell on a Friday.
There was another reason I loved having a September birthday. It just so happened that both of my grandfathers had September birthdays too. My birthday happen to fall between their respective celebrations.
Whether we were with my mom’s dad on September 5th or my with my father’s father on September 19th, I always got to be included in the birthday celebration. Everyone sang to me, and I got a set of candles to blow out. And since I was the only cousin (on both sides) with a September birthday, I always felt extra special. Looking back, it seems like nearly every year of my childhood I got to share a birthday party with one or the other of my grandfathers, and some years I was lucky enough to get two extra parties out of the deal!
However, as much as I loved my birthday, the childhood version of me always wished for a September 16th or 18th birthday instead.
The reason behind this longing is really kind of silly. Somehow in my childish way of thinking, 16 and 18 were more desirable numbers than 17. But obviously you are born on the day you are born, so there is no changing it afterwards. I am forevermore stuck with a September 17th birthday.
Good thing that over the years I’ve learned to embrace it … mostly.
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Do you love reading the “On This Date in History” posts you see on social media? Or looking back at the headlines from the year you were born?
September 17th has a fairly interesting history, at least I think it does for a date that seems sort of random. For example, all of the following events happened on September 17th:
- The city of Boston was founded in 1630
- In 1683, Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (known as the “Father of Microbiology”) first described what he called “animalcules”, or microscopic organisms that we now know as protozoa
- The Constitution of the United States was signed in 1787
- Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849
- In 1976, the first Space Shuttle (Enterprise) was unveiled by NASA
- Vanessa Williams was crowned the first black Miss America in 1983
Lots of good things have occurred historically on September 17th.
Unfortunately, there have been plenty of bad things that happened on this date as well. Such as:
- In 1862 the American Civil War Battle of Antietam was fought, which to this day remains the single bloodiest day in the entirety of American military history
- Also in 1862, the Allegheny Arsenal Explosion, single largest civil disaster of the Civil War
- The first airplane fatality occurred in 1908 when Orville Wright crashed his plane during a show, killing his passenger
- And in 1928 the Okeechobee Hurricane struck Florida and killed more than 2,500 people
and, depending upon how you feel about it, there is also this:
- Lord of the Flies was first published in 1954.
Personally, I really disliked Lord of the Flies, which is why I included it on the list of bad September 17th events as opposed to the good list. It’s extremely hard for me to imagine that anyone could possible like this book. However, if by some strange chance you consider yourself a fan of Lord of the Flies, and if you feel inclined to correct my lists, then by all means feel free to comment below. I promise not to judge your sanity based on you love for this strange and disturbing novel.
Back to my ramblings on the fascinating history of September 17th.
There are lots of supposedly important people who happen to share my birthday.
You know, like Charles the Simple, who was a Frankish King who ruled West Francia from 898-922. He was the third son of King Louis the Stammerer and a cousin of Emperor Charles the Fat.
You remember King Charles the Simple, right?
Yeah, me neither. There really isn’t much to say about Charles, other than the fact that he was apparently simple … although exactly how or why he was described as simple seems to be lost to history. Some historians actually prefer to call him Charles the Straightforward. No explanation for that either. No matter which name you prefer, old King Charles is relatively unheard of today … well, unless you are really into Frankish royalty.
No worries if you didn’t recognize my birthday buddy Charles, though. There are plenty of other September 17th babies of notable fame, including:
- Two Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court: John Rutledge (#2, 1739) and Warren Burger (#15, 1907) … and they are the only two Supreme Court Chief Justices in the entire history of the Supreme Court to share a birthdate
- American outlaw, Billy the Kid (1859)
- Country singer, Hank Williams (1923)
- Author of Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine (1947)
- Actor John Ritter (1948), who starred in the late 1970’s TV comedy Three’s Company
- Video game designer, Yuki Naka (1965) who created “Sonic the Hedgehog”
Sometimes famous people have died on September 17th:
- Dred Scott, an American slave who sued for his freedom and his case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, died in 1858
- U.S. Vice-President Spiro Agnew passed away in 1996
- One of my favorite comedians, Red Skelton, died in 1997
And my daddy. He died on September 17th, too.
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The death of a parent is a grief like no other. It’s a bit like being untethered. Like a newborn baby screams as it is forced to breath air for the first time, so our souls desperately cry when our parents leave this world. Like the final cut in the cord that has connected you in this world for as long as you have drawn breath is suddenly gone. How will we go on without them? It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. This is your parent. You’ve never known life without them, and now that they are gone everything you have known about this world seems to be unstable.
The unexpected death of my father coincided perfectly with my 42nd birthday. I’ve spent the last 4 years trying to make sense of that.
I don’t want it to matter, but it does … at least for now.
Perhaps not as much as it mattered last year, and not nearly the same as it did on the two years prior. Yet the pain is still present. How do you celebrate on the same day that you lost a person you loved so deeply since before you were really even you? How do you embrace joy yet mix it with solemn remembrance when the sting of griefs rolls around each year?
I haven’t figured it out yet. Right now, September 17th is still a hard day for me. Grief anniversaries are real; my heart is just often sad around this time of year. And yet, his is my birthday. I want to celebrate … and, perhaps more importantly, people I love want to celebrate with me.
For now, in regards to September 17th, I work really hard on doing two things:
- Finding ways to acknowledge my sadness, because the anniversary of my daddy’s death is still a sad day for me. I am grateful that I know he waits for me in heaven. I rejoice over his eternal reward. I look forward to seeing him again. And yet, I miss him being here and I still sometimes grieve because he is gone.
- And then I am intentional about being creative as I plan ways to celebrate my birthday with my family and friends. This year, that included a trip to my favorite weekend Farmer’s Market, a little Saturday afternoon antiquing, and a small impromptu party. My favorite person in the whole world is taking me to lunch today after I spend the morning training as a volunteer counselor at our local pro-life pregnancy center (something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time).
I can honestly say it’s been a happy birthday so far. And I also know (thanks to God’s loving kindness and mercy) that whatever else today may hold, whether it is good or bad, I can trust that He will walk with me through it.
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With every year that rolls around, there is a September 17th. Some years good things have happened. Other years, it’s been a bad day.
Life is like that.
Some days are good. Some days are bad. Occasionally, you get a day where the good and the bad are mingled together.
And that’s okay.
Because as wise King Solomon once wrote: “On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days …” (Ecclesiastes 7:14, The Message Bible)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5