Mrs. Rinn was sitting in her living room on a beautiful Saturday morning in early April. She was holding a piece of paper on which her six-year-old son, Nicon, had laboriously printed a birthday request list in red crayon.
Hmmm, thought Mrs. Rinn. Les...legs...oh, Legos. Okay. But this one..."reele gune..." we'll have to talk about that...
Just then her nine-year-old son Piran entered the room. "Hello, Mother," he announced grandly.
"Hi," Mrs. Rinn said absently, puzzling over a word that seemed to be completely lacking in vowels.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking over your brother's birthday list. He seems to want..."
"Good," Piran interrupted. "I have something I'd like to say."
"Do you have an idea of what he'd like? Because this list..."
"No, nothing like that. Mother, I've decided that I'd like to celebrate my birthday next week, too."
"Mmmhmm. But your birthday's in December, honey."
"Yes, and I've been meaning to complain about that. It's right before Christmas, which is totally unfair. Everyone else gets to have a special day some other time of year when no one else is getting presents, and I don't. I want a special day, too--if next week's no good, I could wait until May. That might be better, anyway--nobody else in this house gets presents in May."
"Let me get this straight," said Mrs. Rinn, removing her reading glasses and looking at her son. "You want to change your birthday from..."
"Oh, I don't want to change it. I still want my December birthday. I just think I should get another day, too," said Piran, sitting on the couch beside her.
"Piran, you know that's not possible."
"Why not? I need an extra day. It's not my fault I was born in December."
"No, but that is when you were born. And a birthday is when we celebrate the day that we were born. It's just how it is, son."
"Well, that's a pretty limited definition of 'birthday,' if you ask me. I think that people who want an extra day should get one. We can change 'birthday' to mean any day we celebrate one person who gets presents and cake and..."
"Don't you think that would quickly get out of hand?" Mrs. Rinn asked, smiling at him.
"What do you mean, Mother?"
"Suppose someone wants to celebrate his birthday every day. That would hardly be a good thing, you know."
"True. Well, we'll just have to restrict the number to two. Everyone can have two birthdays in a year, but no more," Piran proclaimed, waving his hand.
"But, Piran," Mrs. Rinn reminded him, "that doesn't solve your problem. If everyone has two birthdays, you'll still have one in December while most people won't."
"I hadn't thought of that," Piran said, frowning. "Okay. How about, only people born in December can have two birthdays. Will that work?"
"What about your friend Ray, who celebrates his birthday on Valentine's Day? I know I've heard him complain about that before, what with all the pink decorations and hearts everywhere," Mrs. Rinn said with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Okay, Ray too, I guess," Piran said a bit more hesitantly.
"But how will you decide who gets to change the definition of 'birthday' to add and extra one, and who has to abide by the traditional definition? And won't the people who only have one birthday get tired of being asked, 'Is this your real birthday, or is it a fake one?'" Mrs. Rinn continued.
"I don't think any birthdays should be considered 'fake,'" Piran said slowly.
"Yes, but if most people agree that the definition of "birthday" means "the day you were born," then most people are going to think of those extra birthdays as "fake" ones, even if you don't like it," Mrs. Rinn said. "Piran, what's this really all about?"
Piran sighed, and muttered something.
"What was that?"
"The new rocket launcher toy in the toy store downtown. They didn't have it at Christmas, and..."
"Rocket launcher! Thanks, Piran! Look, I thought Nicon wrote 'R Cat Lunch'..." and she showed Piran his brother's list.
Mrs. Rinn and her son laughed. Then Piran said wistfully, "Do you think he'll let me play with it, too?"
"I'm sure he will," Mrs. Rinn smiled. "Maybe you'd like to go downtown with me to buy it."
Piran's face brightened. "Sure! And you might want me to test it before you wrap it--you know, make sure it works. I'll get my jacket!"
As Piran raced upstairs, Mrs. Rinn smiled again, shaking her head. Changing the definition of 'birthday' just because you can't have something you want. Thank goodness adults don't think that way, or we'd live in a pretty nonsensical world.