This past Monday, on Feb. 29, my little girl turned 4 — or 1, depending on how you want to look at it. On the day she arrived in 2012, I was really excited. It seemed like a really cool and special club to be in. The only other person I had known with a Leap Day birthday was a fifth grade teacher at my middle school. I didn’t know her personally and she wasn’t even my teacher, yet I still knew her birthday and have always remembered it.
If I didn’t have Facebook I wouldn’t remember half of my friends’ birthdays. Ellen’s friends would not have that problem. It would always be the fun fact she could throw out about herself at parties or write a college admissions essay about.
There was something that just seemed magical about it.
But I will say sometime between Feb. 28 and March 1 of 2013, some of that magic diminished a bit for me. My baby didn’t have a “real” first birthday to celebrate. Sure, older and wiser leaplings will tell you they either celebrate on the last day of February or the first day of March. There is even a formula some observe, suggesting if you were born before noon, celebrate on the 28th, if you were born after, celebrate on the 1st. Some make it a two-day birthday festival in the off years, which is what we said we were going to do, but it just wasn’t the same. I really missed her having a real birthday. Once those two days went by, even though we celebrated, I felt like I was still waiting for it to happen.
Of course, she is too young to realize she has kind of been robbed of a birthday most years, and I will do everything in my power to make sure she never feels that way, but I can’t tell you how elated I was to have a “real” one to celebrate this year. I would even use the word “manic.”
We threw her a shindig for which I am almost embarrassed about how over the top it was for a 4-year-old’s birthday party. She wanted a “Frozen” theme, so she was going to get a winter wonderland in our backyard, by God. There was a bouncy house castle so big my husband literally had to cut limbs off our trees so it would fit in our yard. I worked for a week on the table centerpieces, which poor Frank had to figure out how to run power cords to. Yes, they required power. Because, you know, 4-year-olds really care about that sort of thing.
We strung paper lanterns across the courtyard and recreated a giant ice castle scene on our garage door. And the piece de resistance, a “real Elsa” made an appearance and performed a stellar version of “Let It Go.” The little girls were delighted. The boys, not so much.
It took two solid days to set up and the help of two grandparents, one great aunt and one great uncle. And I do mean great in more than one sense here. Thanks, guys! I am certain every other mother there either thought I was insane or an unbearable show-off. And I agree. It was ridiculous. But after celebrating 1, 2 and 3 and feeling like we hadn’t “really” celebrated it, I just wanted this one to feel “magical” to her. I suspect 8, 12 and 16 will be equally obnoxious.
Even if Elsa isn’t involved, I hope one day Ellen will look at her birthday as being very special, Leap Year or not. Because it is. There is only a 1 in 1,461 chance of being born on this day. And there are some other cool connections/traditions/observances tied to it.
There is an opera based around a Leap Day birthday, “The Pirates of Penzance,” as well as a Sherlock Holmes tale.
In the town of Anthony, Texas, they have a Leap Day festival, complete with a parade and birthday celebration. Leaplings from around the world travel there to celebrate together. You don’t get that if you are born a regular ol’ calendar day.
But there are some kind of strange ones, too.
It’s “Bachelor’s Day” in many countries, where a woman can propose marriage to a man. If he refuses her he has to give her money or buy her a dress or 12 pairs of gloves. The gloves are supposed to spare her the embarrassment of people noticing there is no engagement ring on her finger. How kind!
And it’s also recognized as “Rare Disease Day.”
There have also been some pretty cool famous people born on this day. Pope Paul III, saxophonist Jimmy Dorsey, actors Dinah Shore and Dennis Fariña, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, rapper Ja Rule, actor/model Antonio Sabato, Jr. and a number of other athletes, musicians and artists. Wait. Can we really call Antonio Sabato, Jr., cool?
Of course, strangely, two serial killers also were born on Feb. 29. Aileen Wournos, a female serial killer convicted of killing seven men in Florida, and Richard Ramirez, the infamous “Night Stalker.” Yikes! See what can happen when you don’t get a magical “Frozen” party on your first real birthday (I’m guessing).
In the end, time still marches on and we all get a year older no matter what date our birthdays fall on. And generally as we get older, we start celebrating our birthdays less and less. It’s just another day, many will say, brushing off any significance.
At least I know Ellen will always have at least one birthday that’s not “just another day” every four years. And I like that she will always have that.
One quote I read by an older leapling about the thing he liked most about his birthday was that his life has always been broken into four-year increments. And on his real birthdays, he always evaluates just how much had changed in just four short years. And it made him appreciate just how quickly time flies and to really savor life.
Time does fly indeed. We will only have three more real birthdays with our precious girl before she leaves the nest and I am going to cherish each of them, as well as the ones that don’t have a place on the calendar. Though there will be no lighted centerpieces on the off-years. I promise.