I was almost born on February the 29th. It was a leap year, and my mother went into labor that morning. She told me she worried that I would not have a real calendar-birthday but once every four years, and I still think she willed me to wait until the early morning of March 1st. My best friend and I loved thinking about this, and trying to figure out how many birthdays I almost would have had. We talked about how I was ‘almost just one’ or ‘almost just two.’ It was good for developing early division skills.
When I was six-months old I almost died of Hydrocephalus. A new surgery, just pioneered, saved my life. For years I would joke that whatever cognitive skill I did not excel at was because of that episode. But that Almost saved my life and my cognition, such as it is.
When I was a teen I almost met a prime minister. That story, as told by my mother, went something like this: my mother was a divorced single parent, and I was her designated partner for all cultural events. Once again we were going to a good concert of a world-famous pianist, when I refused to come along. The way I remember it, I had a final exam the next morning and needed to study. My mother took a dear friend instead, and when they came back late that night, their faces were flushed with excitement. Seems that they ran into another old friend who was there with the son-in-law of Golda Meir, then the prime minister of Israel. For some reason the four of them headed to the prime minister’s residence after the concert, and who made them coffee and served cookies? You guessed it. Golda even apologized that the cookies were not home-made. I know you’re thinking my mother made this story up, but if you knew my mother you’d know she hadn’t.
As a writer I’ve had plenty of less dramatic ‘Almosts.’ Almost went to acquisitions, almost made it through acquisitions, and the picture book that made it almost all the way to publication. These are the almosts I know about. There may be some only the great designer of all things knows.
But of all the almosts, it is the missed leap-year birthday that I keep coming back to. I may be excused now for wishing I had a lower birthday count, or maybe hoping for some distinction. It isn’t that, really. It is a sense that something of a tone had been set to my life story. The ‘just missed it by a hair’ strain. For good and for bad.
To be honest, I have had many ‘hits’ and much good fortune, not only near-misses. But this is February the 29th, after all. Today is my almost-birthday.
I raise a glass of sparkling cider (it’s almost champagne)-Cheers!