Call it “The Mystery of the Missing Birthday,” with a young Nancy Brown as famed literary detective Nancy Drew.
“When I was a kid, I always used to look for my birthday on the calendar and it was not there, and I was, like, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Brown says. “I just kept asking my mom, ‘Why don’t I see my birthday on the calendar year after year?’ I’m like, ‘Something’s going on here. I had to have a birthday.’ ”
Brown was born on Feb. 29 — that quirk of the calendar known as leap day. Since then, she has embraced leap year and, especially, her leap year birthdays. While she celebrates every year, it’s those years when her real birthday rolls around that Brown takes festivities up a notch.
Brown was born on Feb. 29, 1960, which she figures will make her either 60 or 15 years old on Saturday. She accepts the former but jokingly prefers the latter.
After learning about her missing birthday as a kid, Brown adopted Feb. 28 as her non-birthday birthday because, she figured, “I’ve got to have a birthday.”
Why not March 1? “I wasn’t going to go beyond February,” she says, and besides, “it just took too long to get there.”
Actually, Brown doesn’t remember any of her childhood birthdays as being any big deal. But, during her 20s — “when I got old enough to do something and make something happen on that day” — she embraced her Feb. 29 leap year birthday.
“When it showed up, I was really excited,” she says. “That’s my day.”
It feels more real, somehow, to celebrate her birthday on her actual birthday, Brown says, while celebrating on the 28th feels like fibbing because “it’s not true and it’s not really my birthday.”
Besides, Brown says, “it only comes around every four years and you really have to enjoy that moment.”
Brown, who has worked in the Tropicana’s culinary department for 33 years, recalls that time when, in a celebration of employees who have February birthdays, she saw hers — and her beloved “Feb. 29” — inadvertently omitted.
Brown picked up a phone and, she says, laughing, “they added my name to that board.”
Brown — an upbeat, outgoing woman who could find reason to celebrate just about anything — celebrates her off-year birthdays simply. During leap years, she goes bigger. This year, that means a 10-day California trip.
Having a leap day birthday is special, like having a birthday on, say, Christmas, Brown says. “Now that I’m older, I’m so excited. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Having a special birthday every four years even “makes me feel younger than I am,” she adds.
“I’m 15,” Brown says, laughing. “Maybe that’s keeping me younger.”
Many retailers offer special deals to “leaplings” — yep, that’s what they’re called — who were born on Feb. 29. Among them are Farmer Boys, where they’ll receive a free Big Cheese cheeseburger, and Olive Garden, where they’ll receive four free dolcini desserts.
But some businesses expand their Feb. 29 largesse to anybody. Here are some leap year offerings available to Southern Nevadans.
■ SkyJump at The Strat will offer adventure lovers $29 off the purchase of a ticket for use before Dec. 31. In addition, anybody 21 and older who takes the literal leap on Feb. 29 will score a complimentary cocktail at 108 Drinks on the tower’s observation deck.
■ Nevada SPCA, 4800 Dewey Drive, is offering $29 adoptions on all adult cats (6 months and older) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 702-872-7722 or visit nevadaspca.org.
■ For those wishing to take a matrimonial leap, Chapels at the Pawn, 725 Las Vegas Blvd. South, is offering weddings for leap year babies for $29 on Saturday.
■ The WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces are offering two tickets to the team’s May 17 home opener against the Dallas Wings for $29 on leap day. Tickets must be purchased on Feb. 29.
2016: 62 babies born to Clark County residents on Feb. 29, out of 88 born to Nevadans
2012: 82 babies born to Clark County residents on Feb. 29, out of 109 born to Nevadans
2008: 85 babies born to Clark County residents on Feb. 29, out of 124 born to Nevadans
Source: Nevada Department of Health and Human Services