When your birthday only comes around every four years, the celebrations should be memorable. That’s how it’s worked for Patsy Allor.
She may have been born in 1936, but today is only the 20th time Allor has gotten to mark her birthday on Feb. 29. That’s how it works for leap year babies, who are born on the day added to calendars to adjust for the fact that the Earth takes slightly more than 365 days to orbit the sun.
So, Allor counts age differently.
“I’m leaving my teen years,” she says. “I’m no longer a teenager.”
Jason and Helen Wilson moved their family from Epps to Baton Rouge while Patsy was a toddler. In non-leap years, they would give her a surprise birthday party sometime in February. In leap years, more elaborate parties took place — dress-up parties, ice cream socials, skating in front of the house, plus humorous party games involving old clothes that her mother had wrapped into a bundle.
“We’d all get in a circle,” Allor recalls. “We’d pass the bundle around to music, the old phonograph records, and when she’d stop it, the person holding the package would have to unwrap a layer and put on what was there, and we’d start again. The last item was long johns, and the person who had the long johns had to wear those for the rest of the party. My mother was very creative.”
Patsy Wilson married Russell Allor in 1958. After their two children (both of whom have March 1 birthdays) grew up, his way of celebrating her quadrennial birthdays was to take her on surprise trips. With the exception of trips that required a passport, he would keep the destination a secret until they arrived.
“One trip we went to San Francisco, and one of my dear friends lived in San Francisco, and she owned an Arabian horse farm across the bay,” she says. “When we were on the plane traveling, I said, ‘Oh, Russell, we need to call Marilyn and visit with Marilyn.’ He said, ‘I’ve got so many things planned, I’m not sure we’ll have time.’ So, when we landed, who met us at the airport but Marilyn, and we stayed at her Arabian horse farm.”
This wasn’t the only time California was the destination. Another such trip required an early surprise. Knowing how much she enjoyed watching the Tournament of Roses Parade on television on New Years Day, Russell took her there in 2004, but still kept his plans to himself.
“We landed in L.A., and the parade is in Pasadena, so I still didn’t know,” she says. “Where we stayed, the hotel was right across from Disneyland, so we could see the fireworks and all the things going on at night. Before we went to bed, he said we were going to the … parade, and I went bonkers.”
Four years earlier, they traveled to Costa Rica, which was memorable for the flowers, birdwatching and a zipline trip through the rain forest canopy.
Another year, they visited England and France, where she was mistaken more than once in London for actress Angela Lansbury.
“One time, Russell and I were standing outside this delightful little ice cream parlor, and … the manager came out and said, ‘Come in, Angela! Come on in!’ So, we went in,” she says.
Russell Allor died Nov. 13, 2011, less than four months before his wife’s 19th leap-year birthday.
“He was planning something,” she says. “I never did find out what he was doing.”