“Born Yesterday,” by Leah McNaughton Lederman

Aug 18th, 2021 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

When things go wrong in my life, I blame it on the fact that no one in my family knows what day my birthday is.

It was the morning of my eighth birthday when it was brought to my attention that I’d had the wrong date for my birthday.

For eight years.

No one was awake yet, and I was quietly playing in the hallway. I’d seen enough Wrath of Kahn to know how to navigate an ergonomic kneeling stool—seated where the knees are supposed to be, I used the butt cushion like it was Mr. Sulu’s computer station.

Let’s be clear, though: I was Captain Kirk and I was in charge of this vessel.

I was very neatly avoiding disaster on the S.S. Hallway Enterprise when I heard my dad’s thoughtful “Huh,” the syllable he reserved for interesting observations, like the date on your daughter’s birth certificate.

He was in his bedroom, sifting through the sewing machine box on his dresser that was reserved for important paperwork like our social security cards, birth certificates, and various IOUs. He walked out, holding a folded, white sheet of paper in his hand, and said to me, “According to this, your birthday was yesterday.”

Phasers set to stun!

The wrong birthday? I’d had the WRONG BIRTHDAY all this time?

Damn it, Jim!

Just the day before, I’d proudly announced to my neighbor I was going to be eight years old the next day.

Mr. Spock, these people have made a liar out of me. I parked the Enterprise and looked up at my father, incredulous.

No way was I born on an even-numbered day.

5:36 pm wasn’t dinnertime, it was an all-out numbers war and I was on the odds’ side, victorious. The only thing better was the next minute. That sweet, savory 5:37.

No way was I a twenty, and not the infinitely-better “twenty-one.”

Death first!

Repeat after me: Leah’s birthday is August 21.

Hide the paperwork, Dad. We’re going deep on this one.

Only once did I flinch. I slipped up.

It was the start of high school, and I was going boldly where I had never gone before: freshman orientation, circa 1996. It was the day after my birthday.

(I’ll leave it to you to figure out what the date was.)

The reasonably cute boy seated across from me during an ice-breaking activity decided to break the ice with an unassuming question, “So, when were you born?”

My defenses went up and several response options flashed across my brain screen in bright, red-lettered, Terminator font:

None of your damn business.
What are you, the birthday police?
Today is my birthday. You are cute. Be nice to me.

My circuits were in overdrive, and even though T-800 didn’t have hormones and didn’t know the adrenaline of entering high school, I sure as hell did. In response to reasonably-cute boy’s innocuous question, I blurted, “YESTERDAY.”

The boy gave me a blank stare, like he almost felt bad for me. Meanwhile, I faded into my seat, my confidence squashed just like the lifelight from the Terminator’s eye when Sarah Connor hit the “squish” button in that factory.

My siblings were never a help. Each one of them has some cockamamie recollection of that day and what they were doing, and why it doesn’t match the date on the birth certificate.

My two oldest brothers were canoeing at summer camp and paddled off to find a payphone to see if Mom had the baby yet. They swore it was the 19th. Yeah. Like I should trust the ten and twelve-year-olds off at camp.

Too bad they couldn’t have gotten their hands on a calendar.

My sister, who was six at the time, favors the 18th but for no reason other than to be contrary.

Every year, come the third week of August, Dad would ask, “So what day will we be celebrating your birthday this year?”

Listen, punk. I’d stop short. Even in my own head, I didn’t sass my dad like that. But in my heart I thought, “You were the one who screwed this up in the first place. You don’t get to tease ME.”

I compromised. Every year, I celebrated my birthday week from August 18th to the 22nd, one day for each of the ridiculous theories my family presented.

Everything was cool with my date appropriation until the college-application people started sniffing around.

I’d written down my brother’s social security number on my application, by mistake. Dad got a “Buy six, get the seventh free” social security number package for us kids, meaning some of ours were pretty similar. After that little snafu, and with the thought of rejection (and the obvious risk of interrogation), I decided to come clean.

It was time.

I was going to even out the numbers. Round out my age bracket. Put an “0” on the end of things.

Repeat after me: Leah’s birthday is August 20.

I’ve made my peace.  The bitter Numbers War between Evens and Odds is over. (Nobody won. They just keep alternating.)

I double-checked the calendar when each of my kids was born and kept a keen eye on their birth records.

One of their names was misspelled, but dammit, I knew what the date was when they were born.


Leah McNaughton Lederman is not an eight-year-old. She is a writer and freelance editor from the Indianapolis area, where she lives with her husband and an assortment of children, cats, and dogs. She has written and published other, decidedly unfunny things like Cafe Macabre: A Collection of Horror Stories and Art by Women (SourcePoint Press, 2019), and A Novel of Shorts: The Woman No One Sees (Mothership Press, 2020). She even had a weepy essay entitled “My Bleeding Heart” nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A second volume of Cafe Macabre comes out in 2021.


Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.