This story was originally published in The Suffolk Times in February 2016.
“If I was born two minutes later I would have a different birthday,” said Joseph Sferlazza of Southold.
For most, two minutes wouldn’t have made a difference in the grand scheme of their life. But for Mr. Sferlazza, who was born at 11:58 p.m. Feb. 29, 1952, those 120 seconds put him in the rarefied company of those with a leap year birthday, which he will celebrate once again on Monday.
The former Riverhead High School teacher and noted local musician, who plays under the name Southold Slim, said he and his mom have a running joke that she couldn’t just wait the two minutes. He insists, though, that he loves having arrived on the uncommon date, which only appears on the calendar every four years.
“I felt special,” Mr. Sferlazza said, adding that he still celebrated his birthday each year during school. “Other kids thought it was amazing. Teachers fawn over you a little bit … you get a lot of positive attention for a special day.”
According to CNN, four million people worldwide were born Feb. 29. The chances of that happening are 1 in 1,461, certainly making the birthday “special.” The extra day tacked onto February compensates for the fact that it takes Earth 365 days and six hours to complete a revolution around the sun.
Jake Nolan of Cutchogue wasn’t scheduled to arrive on leap day in 1996. But his mom was ready for her fourth pregnancy to be over and asked her doctor if she could deliver earlier. Mr. Nolan said she didn’t realize the significance of Feb. 29 until later that day.
Now, each birthday is filled with amusement when he tells people the date and they often can’t find it on the calendar.
“It’s always nice when someone is super-surprised and doesn’t understand how it works,” he said. “It’s funny to explain [leap day birthdays] to them.”
The predictable jokes, however, are something Mr. Nolan can do without. But others, like Bob Corwin of Greenport, welcome the jokes and enjoy making a bigger deal out of the occasion.
Mr. Corwin said when he and his twin brother Everett, known as “Ev,” were children his mother would throw them birthday parties that incorporated frogs — playing on the “leap” in leap year. Since the 43-year-old siblings will technically turn 11 on Monday, Bob said friends and family will continue to tell them they can’t drink at their party because they’re still years under the legal age.
During the in-between years, the Corwins choose to celebrate on Feb. 28, as does Francis Zambito of Laurel. Ms. Zambito said she chooses that date because she wants to keep her birthday within the same month. Carol Brush, 72, of Riverhead, who is celebrating her 18th leap day birthday, feels similarly.
Mr. Nolan, however, opts to celebrate March 1 because he and his parents feel he’s not yet a full year older by Feb. 28.
Most agreed that the unique birthday has been positive in their lives and they all noticed at young ages that the actual day they were born didn’t occur annually like most other people’s.
Mr. Corwin said he noticed when he was 8 that every fourth year his parties were bigger than other years. Mr. Sferlazza became aware in preschool because his celebrations most often occurred on either Feb. 28 or March 1, and never on his actual birthday. Mr. Nolan also realized the difference when his three older sisters began teasing him, telling him he was only 1 year old when he knew he was 6, and so on.
Even with the loving teasing, Mr. Nolan still enjoys having the unique birthday and is more excited than usual about Monday’s celebration, his fifth.
“It’s interesting and fun,” he said.