GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Joel Nicholson is looking forward to Wednesday. It's his birthday.
It's his real birthday.
Real? Yes, real.
You see, Nicholson is a leaper. The good-looking, mild-mannered teen was born on Leap Day, nearly 16 years ago. Leap Day babies are born on Feb. 29, which rolls around only every four years on the Gregorian calendar.
Nicholson said he doesn't know the Gregorian calendar from the calendar in his room.
Of course, he was joking. The sophomore at Grand Junction High School knows all about Leap Year.
Like a professor in a math class, Nicholson made his voice a little deeper, furrowed his brow a bit and talked about Leap Year.
The Gregorian calendar is used as the standard calendar throughout the world. It features common years (365 days) and, of course, leap years, which are 366-days long.
A leap year happens every four years to synchronize the calendar year with the solar year. The solar year is the length of time it takes for the earth to complete its orbit around the sun. That takes about 365 1/4 days, give or take a couple of minutes.
After his lesson, Prof. Nicholson chuckled. His eyes sparkled and his mischievous smile stretched from ear to ear.
He was just messing.
When it comes to his birthday - his real birthday - Nicholson is a jokester.
"It's pretty cool. It's really fun to joke around with people about this," said Nicholson.
His mom, Tammy, laughed.
"Oh, yeah," she bubbled. "He does that."
Nicholson has a younger sister, Mackenzie. And like typical brothers and sisters, they argue from time to time.
"I'll come in and say to Joel, 'You know, you are older, so you should be able to handle this.' And he'll say, 'No, Mom. She's older. I'm only 2," Tammy said. "It definitely breaks the tension when something is up."
Nicholson laughed out loud when he remembered the incident.
But the jokes are on him sometimes.
When they celebrated his third birthday in 2008, one of his friends gave him a toy truck for his birthday. The box said, "For youths 3 and up."
"You're finally old enough to play with this now," his friend said.
After Wednesday, when Nicholson gets his license, he'll have a full-size truck to play with.
"I think it's cool to have such a unique birthday. It's good to be different," he said.
The chance of being born on Leap Day is about 1 in 1,500. Custer had better odds than that at Little Bighorn.
There are about 187,000 people in the U.S. and 4 million people in the world who were born on a Leap Day.
Despite the odds, Nicholson knows of two others who will be celebrating their fourth birthday Wednesday. He met one girl in math class at Grand Junction High School last year and the other is Mackenzie's friend, a sophomore at Central High School.
"We always said, 'You'll be young forever," Tammy said.
And that's where the jokester really comes out.
For Nicholson to have 13 "real" birthdays, it will take him 52 years.
And other milestones in a young man's life are the same.
Sixteen "real" birthdays (the age for driver's license) equal 64 years.
Eighteen "real" birthdays (the age of independence) equal 72 years.
Twenty-one "real" birthdays (the age to drink a beer) equal 24 years.
Twenty-five "real" birthdays ... awww, forget it. You get the picture.
"It definitely tests your math skills," Nicholson said, with that mischievous grin.
Nicholson was mischievous before he was even born.
He was born in 1996 at Lutheran Hospital in Wheat Ridge. He came along at 6:48 p.m. and weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 21 inches long.
But Nicholson was supposed to come much sooner. The doctor told the family, after a checkup, that Nicholson would be born on Feb. 22.
However, Nicholson's father, Troy, didn't agree. He told Tammy after the examination that the baby would be a boy, and he would be born on Feb. 29.
Tammy didn't believe her husband. But when they arrived at the hospital on Feb. 22, the doctor said, "See you at the hospital next week. This baby is not coming on his own."
"I was a little disappointed because I was ready to have my baby," Tammy said. "But on Feb. 29, I was excited because I knew I was going to be a mom that day."
And now, 16 years and four "real" birthdays later, she's still dealing with his mischief.