No, not my birthday; my date of birth. Which is to say, September first. I was born early, though I’m not sure by how much (I used to think my due date was the eleventh, but recently my mother said otherwise, and now I can’t remember what date she said). But really, the amount doesn’t matter — just the result.
Why does it matter? Because my school district, like most, had guidelines for determining when children should start kindergarten. You had to be five or older by the cut-off date. And what was that date?
I don’t know how strictly that was enforced. Maybe if I’d been born a few days later, I still could have started school that year. As it was, they gave my mother the choice, to start me or hold me back. Given that I was already a ferocious reader, she opted to boot me out the door and into kindergarten. And for that, I am more thankful than I can say.
People who would probably not have been in my life if I had started school a year later: kurayami_hime. She would have been two years ahead of me, instead of one, and we likely would not have become friends — at least not such close friends that these days, my parents refer to her as their other daughter. kniedzw: even if I still went to Harvard, he would have been more than a year out of college rather than recently graduated when I showed up, and by then would have distanced himself more from the friends he still had in school. We would not have begun dating, and I would not be married to him now. teleidoplex; it’s unlikely I would have gone to the Castell Henllys field school in 2000, which means we would not have met there. And while I still might have gone to Indiana University for graduate school (thus giving us a second chance to meet), I don’t know that I would have ended up playing in the Bloomington Changeling LARP — which created most of my social circle for six years, shaped my academic research, and led to me running Memento, the tabletop game that ended up inspiring the Onyx Court novels.
. . . to name just a few.
This is not to say I would have had no awesome friends, boyfriend/husband, or adopted sister had I entered school a year later. In both high school and college, I had friends a year behind me; I probably would have been closer to them in this alternate history, and they are very cool people, too. But you know what? I like my life. I like the path it’s followed. And so much of it is the coincidental result of being at particular points in the educational system at particular times. Shift me back a year, and a lot of the things I’m happiest with suddenly vanish, to be replaced by god knows what.
Dear Mom: thank you for sending me off to kindergarten on my fifth birthday, rather than holding me back an additional year. And thank you to whatever gestational butterfly flapped its wings and caused me to enter this world on September first, just a little bit ahead of schedule.