The girls turned five today. Sort of. Without a date on which to hang celebrations, birthdays become nebulous affairs which last a week. That’s no bad thing, in my book.
This time last year we were in London, preparing to celebrate their first proper birthday on the BBC Breakfast sofa, so this morning Evie asked when she and Georgie would be going to the television studios. Josh gave them a withering look. ‘You’re not famous this year,’ he told them, ‘you’re only famous when it’s a leap year.’ Being famous once every four years is still pretty cool, I pointed out, but the girls were nevertheless disgruntled.
When they were three we offered them a choice of birthday. They picked one each: 28 February and 1 March. Two birthdays, two cakes, two separate lots of fuss. I assumed it would always be that way, but this year they surprised me. ‘We want the same birthday,’ they announced, ‘just like we did last year.’
So we had it today and it didn’t really feel like their birthday, but they grinned the whole day and tried out their new bikes while the film in my head turned my six-pound scraps into five-year-old girls in a series of jerky images.
After they fell asleep I sat in my office and read an email from a man in Peru. As his wife was about to give birth this time last year, he read an article I had written for The Guardian about leap-day birthdays. ‘It inspired me,’ he wrote. ‘At 10pm on the 29th February, the doctor told us he had to do a Caesarian section and asked if we wanted to wait a couple of hours for March 1st. I said no. I just wanted to know that we are grateful for what you wrote.’ I don’t think I’ve ever been so touched.
So happy sort of birthday to my darling Evie, inspiring and maddening in equal measures. Happy sort of birthday to funny, sweet Georgie, who makes me laugh as much as she makes me roll my eyes. Happy sort of birthday to Carole across the road, to five-year-old Jenson, and to one-year-old Cristobel in Peru.
To all the Leaplings in birthday limbo this year – happy sort of birthday.