Monday, February 29, 2016

Some thoughts about my 15th birthday

I don't know of many people who rank their second birthday among the best they ever had.

Most people have no memory of their second birthday, but I do, because I was eight years old at the time.

I am sure I had cake and ice cream because I have had that delicious combination on each of my birthdays and even on the years when I have not had a birthday. What I remember most about the birthday were two gifts I received- copies of the Sporting News and Baseball Digest.

My dad picked me up a copy of the Sporting News a few months earlier during one of the towns he stopped in as he drove a truck for Neosho Nurseries. Back then, it was called the Bible of Baseball and even then during the off-season the Sporting News concentrated on our national pastime.

After my second birthday, I began reading the Sporting News every week and eventually my parents bought a subscription. I also continued reading Baseball Digest for years.

Yes, I am one of those whose birthday landed on February 29. I was supposed to be born March 10, but there was so much to do that I arrived a week and a half ahead of time. Since that time, I have had scores of people tell me how unlucky I am to only have a birthday once every four years.

I have never looked at it that way.

It never fails as a topic of conversation and people always ask me whether I celebrate on February 28 or March 1 the years when I do not have a birthday. I always tell them I celebrate all 365 days  the other three years, therefore it is always a disappointment when Leap Year comes around.

Of course, that's not true, but I never tire of telling people that.

Nor did I ever tire of my students giving me a hard time about being older than their teacher. And now when I have finally reached my 15th birthday and few eighth graders would be able to tell me that any more, I am no longer in the classroom.

Another of my jokes will be gone in four more years, when I can no longer talk about having to wait to be able to get a driver's license. Thankfully, I can go on telling people I cannot receive Social Security until I turn 248.

My 15th birthday was a quiet one. I received a few phone calls, some e-mails, and a few hundred Facebook messages. That is one of the wonderful things about Facebook. It enables us to reconnect with people from all phases of our lives. I have Facebook friends who were with me when I celebrated my fourth birthday as an East Newton High School student, my fifth birthday as a Crowder College student, my seventh birthday as the editor of the Lamar Democrat and my 10th birthday as editor of the Carthage Press.

I was in my first year of teaching at Diamond Middle School when I turned 11 and in my first year of teaching at Joplin South Middle School when I turned 12.

When most people celebrate their 15th birthday, they spend time thinking about getting their driver's permit, graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming an adult.

When you only have a birthday once every four years, you should have already completed those tasks and are probably beginning to wind things down by the time you turn 15.

I am nowhere near ready for that. At this point, I feel like I could return to the classroom for another 10 or 15 years, keep writing for far longer than that, and in the back of my mind, the part that keeps deluding me, I still think I could step on a baseball field and hit line drives all day long, though running them out is a whole different matter. Fielding wouldn't make a difference. It would be almost impossible for me to bend over and catch ground balls, but then again, I never could catch ground balls even when it was easy for me to bend over.

So thanks to all of you who were kind enough to wish me a happy birthday. In four more years, I can drive and in 12 more years I will be able to vote.

And not to alarm anyone, but in just 80 years, I am not ruling out running for president. You may think it is a joke, but this year has convinced me jokes can be elected.

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