Leap Day 2020 by (4 Stories)

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The overlap in our Venn diagram

Leap Day 2020

by Dorothy Rice

Yesterday, February 28, was my anniversary. I suppose “our anniversary,” would be the better way to say it, but it’s kind of like when I’m asked how many children we have, and I respond, “I have three, and he has three,” even though together we have five kids, not six. The youngest gets double-counted. She’s the overlap in our Venn diagram.

I’m not good at sharing children. It’s easier to think of my husband and I as two separate pods, each of us with a genetic link to three of our five progeny. Six is a big number, an impressive number of kids to boast. Maybe I just like the sound of, “Together we have six . . .”

As to anniversaries, February 28 is the only one of my three that I remember. The first was in the spring, or it might have been early summer. A guess based solely on one memory. I was standing on the courtroom steps in Virginia City, Nevada, a warm, dry breeze moving my yellow polyester dress so it draped around and between my bare legs. I had one foot poised on a higher step, the other a step or two down, waiting, while my new husband and his parents argued about what to have for lunch. Chinese or Mexican. And my hair. I remember my hair. Freshly curled, clean and bouncy. I was glad for the dry air lifting it off my neck. Not a speck of moisture in the desert air. My hair wouldn’t frizz.  Yes, it would have been spring, or maybe early summer. Not so hot that I broke a sweat. I would have remembered that.

My second marriage happened in the winter, but whether before Christmas or after, I couldn’t say. Lake Tahoe, snow on the ground, me without an appropriate coat or shoes. Tiptoeing from the car to one of those drive-up chapels. Organ music at the push of a button, barking dogs from the adjacent trailer park, my husband-to-be’s friend and his wife, our witnesses that day, busting up, laughing, because the scene was hilarious, ludicrous, the man reading the vows like one of those small-town car dealership owners in a DIY TV commercial, featuring their kids or grandkids, maybe a tiger or an elephant, rented for the occasion. They were drunk too, and high on cocaine. I wasn’t. Because I was pregnant. Or I thought I was.

Two months later, during an ultrasound, my OB-GYN said, “It’s not viable.” His delivery flat, matter-of-fact. I knew the word, but had never thought of viability in the context of babies and pregnancy. I asked him what he meant. “It’s dead,” he said. “No heartbeat.”

My husband hadn’t come to this appointment, or to the earlier ones. I’d wanted to be with someone, with family, so my eight-year-old son was there, standing beside my rounded belly, slick with gel, watching the images on the screen shift in and out of focus. It’s possible the doctor said it that way in an effort to spare my son. If that’s the case, he didn’t try very hard.

Yes, it was winter that time, sometime between November and February. I could check the marriage certificate, if I cared to.

This time, there’s no forgetting. February 28, 1998. “You’ll never forget your anniversary,” Mother had said, as she stabbed the little square on the calendar with a polished index finger and waited for both of us to agree.

She was right. I never forget our anniversary. He doesn’t either. Is that because of the date? The last day of the shortest month of the year. Except for every four years when February has an extra day, as it does this year, February 29, 2020. The quadrennial day-after our anniversary, more memorable than March 1, which is just the start of another run-of-the-mill 31-day month.

Profile photo of Dorothy Rice Dorothy Rice
Dorothy Rice is the author of the memoirs GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK (Otis Books, June 2019) and THE RELUCTANT ARTIST (Shanti Arts, 2015). Her personal essays and fiction have been published in journals and magazines including The Rumpus, Brain Child Magazine and Hippocampus. After raising five children and retiring from a career managing statewide environmental protection programs, Rice earned an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, Palm Desert, at 60. She also works for 916 Ink, a Sacramento youth literacy nonprofit. You can find Dorothy at dorothyriceauthor.com, and on twitter at @dorothyrowena.

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Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Thanx Dorothy for the delightful story of your three marriages and your five/six children and for the photo of your lovely Venn daughter!
    Happy Anniversary!

  2. Suzy says:

    Thanks for this story, Dorothy, with a different perspective on Leap Day. And happy day-after-your-anniversary! Love this picture of your “Venn diagram” daughter – I’m thinking she’s probably grown up by now, right?

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Dorothy, as the grandparent of three children who came to our family vi my daughter’s second marriage, I have struggled with how to answer the question, “How many grandkids do you have?” And that’s without the complication of your Venn child. Your description of your marriage in Lake Tahoe sounds similar to the one they had by themselves in Vegas. They had both already had tradition first marriages that left them with 3 kids each. So, how to answer that blended question? I like to say I have 11 grandkids, three of whom joined our family through my daughter’s second marriage. If anyone cares. How’s that?

    • Dorothy Rice says:

      That’s a perfect answer about the grandkids, Laurie. Step-parenting has been one of the greatest challenges of my adult life. Now that they are all adults, the dramatic years are over and we are, most of the time, a true “blended” family. But boy, the first ten years or so, when they were teens, except for our Venn baby, were a mess. I have two grandkids, from my first born, and it looks as though that may be it. So far, the others have vowed never to have children – the world is too messed up they say.

  4. Marian says:

    Great blending story, Dorothy. I love the Venn analogy. I don’t have biological children, but my long-time sweetheart has three daughters, and they have three sons. Because I’ve been in their lives since they were young children, when people ask, I say I have three “bonus” grandchildren. Now young adults, they truly have been a blessing and a bonus.

  5. Dorothy, I really enjoyed how you wandered through this evocative story weaving factual information with such sensory memories. Well told, thank you!

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Dorothy, thank for sharing your interesting tale of marriages, children, how it all relates to the one date you remember and your Venn daughter, now all grown. It was also interesting to read the above comments on blended marriages and children who enter the mix. “Yours, mine and ours”, how do you count, what are they called? Thank you for giving us your personal thoughts and recollections on the subject.

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