Birthdays come each and every year for the majority of us, but for those born on February 29, they leap into the golden years just a little slower than most
Harvey Porter of Kelligrews will be 80 his birthday, or will he? Born February 29th 1940, Porter, if going by actual dates that have passed on a calendar, is only a spring chicken about to turn 20.
He laughs. “Age don’t bother me, but all through the years people would say I was only a certain age, and maybe say I was too young for this or too young for that, but I didn’t make no mind about being a leap year baby,” he says.
In non leap years, Porter would celebrate his birthday on March 1st, and offers it really didn’t make much difference one way or another to him. “I was too busy working hard in them years. Birthdays were just another day to me,” he said.
Clarenville’s Howard Decker is also a leap year baby, otherwise known as a leaping. Born in ‘36, Decker will be turning 84, or 21, depending on who you ask.
“Well, people act surprised when they meet me and hear I’m only now 20, and married to this older women sitting right here beside me,” he laughs, as his wife of 62 years responds with a scoffed, “yes b’y.”
Decker continues the teasing. “The wife, she’s 80 today. An old woman, right? Ask her what she thinks of being married to a 21 year old, why don’t ya.”
The lovely maid, named Marion, opens with a charming; “Bless the Lord, oh my soul! It’s fun being married to a young fella like ‘e. He’s only 21 and has lots of energy. Or so he wishes, right? If we’re alive, we’ll celebrate his birthday on his birthday this year, but other years, why celebrate it before he was born? So we always celebrated on March 1st.”
Jean Barrett, also of Clarenville, is another leap year baby. She’ll be turning 48, or 12, depending on the math formula used. Barrett laughs.
“It’s fun being a leap year baby. I always felt special,” she says. Unlike Decker and Porter, who celebrated their birthdays on March 1st in non-leap years, Barrett always celebrates hers on February 28th, and there’s a special reason why. “When I was born, my dad was working down to Labrador, over half-an-hour time difference between Labrador and here, so when he got the phone call that I was born, it was ten-to-twelve on the 28th, but here it was already the twenty ninth.”
While Decker and Porter says they spent their life too busy working to fuss much about birthdays and missing days on a calender, Barrett says she always found it a fun fact having a birth date that was very unique.
“While I don’t know my work schedule yet, I’m sure I’ll do something to celebrate. It’s special when it’s a leap year every four years, so I try to do something to mark that occasion,” she says.
When we ask Porter what he’ll be doing for his birthday he says, “nuttin”’ then laughs and adds, “But I suppose I’ll do whatever the kids and grandkids tells me I’m doing.”
Interesting fact: leap years have a purpose. If there were none, eventually February would become a summer month for the Northern Hemisphere and calendars have had to work hard to stay in sync with the natural rhythms of Earth’s orbit around the sun, and leap years that occur every four years are the greater-minds-than-most solution. The last leap year was 2016, and the next one to follow this year’s is 2024, 2028, 2032 and 2036.
Porter says while he’s never really “paid no mind” to being a leap year baby, others seem to find it an interesting thing. “I’ve had lots ask me about it, ask me what I thinks about it all or how old I am. But to me, it’s just my birthday and no big deal.”
Younger than the kids
Decker, however, seems to enjoy “having a bit of fun.” From teasing his wife to joking that he’s younger than many of his grandkids, he says it’s “a laugh.” “We didn’t celebrate birthdays much growing up. You went to work when you were 16 back then, or me, when I was four. But you had to work too hard to be worried about when your birthday was or wasn’t.”
Barrett says she’s embraced her ‘specialness’ over the years, and is thrilled to share that she has a niece, Kaitlyn, who is also a leap year baby.
“I just think it’s something that always made me special, or anyone born on February 29th special. I love being a leap year baby. It’s just always been another part of me and who I am.”