Less is More

Rare Leap Day baby remembers hard times and a tricky birthday

Linda Honeycutt’s history goes deep in Transylvania County.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

People born on February 29 — unquestionably the least common birthday, as it comes around only once every four years — are variously referred to as “Leapers,” “Leaplings,” and “Leapsters.” It’s estimated there are less than 200,000 of them living in the United States. Bold Life found a local subject to question about the rare experience of being a Leap Day baby. Linda Hamilton Honeycutt, a lifelong resident of Brevard, was born February 29, 1948. This month, according to the calendar — Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 — she will celebrate her 18th birthday.

As a child, was it difficult to understand why you didn’t have as many birthdays as other children?

It was unusual, but I didn’t feel any different. It’s odd, but life goes on just like anybody else.

Most people don’t consider just how unusual it is.

They say, “Oh I was born in a Leap Year, too.” But they were born in June or whatever, not on February 29th, so they got their play day. They just don’t get it. Sometimes I think people forgot I was even born. Maybe I was just hatched.

Does that birthdate cause any legal complications?

No, the only thing is my driver’s license expires on February 28th, not the 29th. They let you choose February 28th or March 1st [to renew it]. But I think if you were born in February, it should be February. That’s the month I was born, not March.

Are there any perks?

One time a Chinese restaurant advertised you got a free meal [on your birthday]. But that wasn’t in a Leap Year, so I went on March 1st, and they wouldn’t give it to me. They said you had to come on the 29th. How could I come on the 29th if it didn’t exist?

You had to wait four years for your free Chinese takeout?

I guess [laughter]. 

Since they only came every four years, did you have extra-special birthday celebrations growing up?

No. But people from the Depression years, like my parents, were raised that way. They never had anything, and the mountains were very different back then. 

Different how?

This was pioneer country. You grew everything yourself mostly, and canned a lot. Mama made our clothes. I had friends whose clothes were made from flour sacks. I didn’t even get chewing gum very often. I’d chew it and stick it to the bed post. Then later I could pull it off and chew it again.

It’s important for people to hear these stories and histories.

I want to write a book. My ancestors came here in 1799, and my third great grandfather was a founding father of Buncombe County. His son was the first sheriff of Transylvania County and didn’t believe in slavery. He was part of the Underground Railroad, helping slaves and Union soldiers escape to the North. 

Well I hope you write it, and have a big birthday party this year.

I deserve it, since they forgot so many other ones! [laughter]. Take me to the spa and everything. 

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