Okay, we're back. Here is what happened on this day after 1954 (a "Marian Year" by the way):
• On this day in 1973, Alexander Solzhenitsyn published "Gulag Archipelago," an expose of the Soviet prison system.
• On this day in 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.
• On this day in 1982, Nevell Johnson Jr, a black man, was mortally wounded by a police officer in a Miami video arcade, setting off three days of race-related disturbances that left another man dead.
• On this day in 1989, Alexander Dubcek, the former Czechoslovak Communist leader who was deposed in a Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968, was named president of the country's parliament.
• On this day in 1999, Clayton Moore, television's "Lone Ranger," died in West Hills, Calif., at age 85.
• On this day in 2004, in New York City, activist and author Susan Sontag died at age 71, and actor Jerry Orbach died at age 69.
• On this day in 2005, former top Enron Corporation accountant Richard Causey pleaded guilty to securities fraud, and agreed to help pursue convictions against Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling.
• On this day in 2008, the Detroit Lions completed an 0-16 season, the NFL's worst ever, with a 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
• On this day in 2009, 43 people died in a suicide bombing in Karachi, Pakistan, where Shia Muslims were observing the Day of Ashura.
• On this day in 2010, Popular protests began in Algeria against the government, as part of the so-called "Arab Spring."
There was a time when having a birthday between Christmas and the New Year was something of a curse. I used to say my parents sent me a card every year out of guilt. Contrast that with this year, when I received forty birthday greetings from Facebook, same as last year. And when I arrived at Pat's house in West Chester, the siblings (and one of the nephews) were all there.
Mom didn't send me a card either, but there's a perfectly good explanation. More on that later.
(IMAGE: A rare photo of the Salus Populi Romani, crowned by Pius XII in 1953. The crown inscription reads: "Pius XII PM Deiparae Reginae Kal MCMLIV A Mar." Pope Pius XII to the Queen Mother of God, Marian Year 1954. After the renovation, the crown was deleted and is now in the museum of the sacristy of Saint Peter. The picture today in Rome exists therefore only without the crown.)