Happy Leap Year

Just when you thought it was safe to return to business as usual, February throws another holiday at you.

I know the holiday season officially ended sometime back in January. By now it should be business as usual.

So, if that’s the case, why does it seem like this month has brought one offbeat holiday after another? Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get the confetti out of my hair.

We started off this February with Groundhog Day, the only holiday dedicated to a rodent. (You would think lab mice would be protesting, but I guess with all the experimental testing of mascara and such, they have more important things on their mind.) Punxsutawney Phil apparently saw his shadow this year, meaning we'll have six more months of winter. Which, in 2012, looks an awful lot like spring.

The following weekend brought Super Bowl Sunday, with the cheering of NY Giants fans and the whining of a disgruntled supermodel. (Who would of thought those two words would be put together?) Then there’s the Presidents Day trifecta, what with Lincoln’s real birthday on the 12th, Washington’s on the 22nd, and the combo of the official Presidents Day on the Monday in between. I guess this was the Congressional Sunshine Club’s method of getting away with buying just one cake this month.

Between all the presidential hoopla, we had Valentine's Day. Then, just last week, we celebrated the excesses of Mardi Gras followed by the somberness of Ash Wednesday. And Sunday, there’s the Oscar celebration (sure to end sometime in March).

So February, our shortest month, could probably make a case for the title of “Month of the Partying Hearty.” And this year the argument is made even stronger on the last day of the month, that rarest of all 24-hour periods, Leap Year Day.

My maternal grandfather, a Philadelphia amateur-boxer-turned-politician named Joseph Crowley, was born on Leap Year Day. Or, at least that was the story I was told. I only knew the man a few short years before he died, and my memories are somewhat vague. I was just a kid, and my memories are therefore pretty childlike. I remember he could draw wonderfully, and would sketch a horse for me whenever I requested. He carried butter rum Lifesavers in his deep coat pockets, and would let me stand on tiptoe to reach inside. He had an office in city hall, and I remember following my mother up a spiral staircase and through darkly paneled halls to visit him.

I remember his quick smile and his perfect, calligraphy-like penmanship, although those may be memories I picked up over time instead of actually had while he was around. After all, he grinned at me from a yellowing photograph on a shelf in our living room while I was growing up, and I can still see his perfect handwriting on a neatly inscribed Christmas card that he gave his first grandchild back when the holidays were new to her. And I remember he died the day before Marilyn Monroe did. (“He would say she couldn’t live without him,” was the family joke at the time.)

But most of all, I remember my grandfather and birthdays. You see, I was born on March 1, and when I was little, my grandfather shared the day with me. Together, we would blow out candles and open presents; together, he grew older and I grew up.

“Why does Pop Pop have his cake on my birthday?” I asked once.

“Because he was born on Leap Year Day, so he has no real birthday of his own,” came the answer. I didn’t question it. After all, that was back when I looked forward to birthdays, shared or otherwise.

So, in honor of my grandfather, I’d like to wish happy birthday to all the Leap Year Day babies who are celebrating for the first time since 2008. May you enjoy your day for real this time, and not worry about sharing it with those born in a totally different month.

I, for one, will always be grateful to you. After all, your birthday allows me one extra day before facing the reality of another year, another candle on my cake. And what could be better than the gift of extra time?


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