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Happy Birthday, leaplings

Crazy things can happen when you're born on Feb. 29
by: contributed photo Dori White at the age of 18 with her boyfriend.

East County resident Dori White remembers her 21st birthday as a 'whole comedy of errors.'

Which is rather odd, since she's only 12 in leap years.

White is among a group of folks called 'leaplings' or 'leapers' - those with the distinction of being born on Feb. 29. Most of us envy those who enjoy 75 percent fewer birthdays in the course of their lives, but 'leapers' don't always find the notoriety memorable.

Growing up, White celebrated her non-Leap Year birthdays on either Feb. 28 or March 1 - whichever fell closest to the weekend. She always felt special, she said, because few could lay claim on having a birthday every four years. But her uniqueness wasn't always popular among classmates.

'Kids teased me, and I felt like Rudolph,' she said, laughing. 'They'd say, 'Leap Year Baby, Leap Year Baby, you don't have a birthday.' It was so weird. I wanted the cupcakes at school, but I didn't want the teasing. I always felt sort of ripped off.'

Years later, White joined the ranks of all soon-to-be 21ers, looking forward to her first foray into the world of legal adult beverages. Her boyfriend at the time had made reservations at a neighborhood restaurant and bar, and the pair got dressed up for a party.

A non-Leap Year party.

'We were going out on Feb. 28, just like I did three out of four years, so I didn't think anything of it,' White recalled. 'We got to the bar and I told the waitress I liked sweet drinks, so bring me whatever the house special was that was sweet. We sit and wait, chatting it up, and when she comes out with our drinks and appetizers, she looks me in the eye and says, 'Excuse me, but I think I need to look at your ID.' '

White 'proudly' produced her identification, certain the server was going to be embarrassed. After a brief consultation with whom White assumed was the manager, the server returned and asked the pair to leave since White was 'underage.'

'We sort of argued back and forth, but she wasn't going to budge,' White said. 'I do remember the drink she brought me had an umbrella in it, and I thought that was cool. But I never even got to taste it.'

White and her boyfriend were relocated to a table in the restaurant - by the same server. Suddenly, a man in a suit approached the table and asked White her name.

'I thought it was the manager,' she said. 'I thought he was going to offer us a piece of birthday cake or a free dinner. But it wasn't the manager.'

The man produced a boom box, cranked the volume and proceeded to sing and shimmy - right out of the suit he had been wearing.

White admitted to being embarrassed, though thoroughly entertained, as the center of attention among the other diners and some families with children. But the party was about to end.

'Just as (the dancer) was getting down to the lowest layer, the waitress comes out again,' she said, laughing. 'And again, she says, 'I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave the entire establishment.' She had our dinners in her hand, but by then, it was a really good idea for us to leave.'

White's birthdays since have been far less notable, she said. She usually acknowledges the anniversary of her nativity with friends and family in a much more low-key manner. This year, she plans dinner and some clubbing with friends to celebrate the actual 48 years she's been on the planet. She's also finding enjoyment in reminding her 14-year-old son that age brings responsibility.

'I like to tease him and tell him, 'You're older than me so maybe you should do the dishes,' ' she said.

Another leapster

Bob Hansing, another local leapling, has lived in a perpetual state of adolescence, surpassed in age by both his children and his wife.

'My father-in-law likes to tell people his oldest daughter is married to a 17-year-old kid,' said Hansing, 68. 'Guess that makes me a grave robber, and her a cradle robber.'

Hansing was born in Nebraska and grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. As a child, he celebrated his non-Leap Year birthdays on both Feb. 28 and March 1. But like White, he endured endless teasing by schoolmates as well as other adults.

'They would say, 'You don't have a birthday. You're not special. You're nobody,' ' he recalls. 'Even adults would say that. It was traumatic for a kid.'

Chocolate cake was a household staple during Hansing's childhood and frequently enjoyed for breakfast. But come his birthday, the treat was doubled.

'I got an extra cake on the 28th and the first,' Hansing said. 'The piece covered the whole plate! I don't know if I fussed about my birthday or Mom felt sorry for me, but I believe she tried to make it special.'

Hansing is a longtime Gresham resident who spent 43 years as a mainframe computer programmer before retiring four years ago. Birthdays aren't a big deal much anymore, he said, adding he prefers cake with family to elaborate celebrations.

'My wife makes my birthdays special,' he said. 'She acknowledges them, and we always do something special - whatever I want to do.'



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