Home at last
Tomorrow or Sunday, we'll be seeing the photo of the first baby born in the new year. And as I do every year, I'll be thinking, "Dumb! Don't show me the first baby of the new year -- show me the last baby born in the old year."
I say this in my role as a tax lawyer. When a baby is born on Dec. 31, his or her parents get the same dependent tax deduction and child tax credit as if the baby had been born on the preceding Jan. 1. So the parents get a whole year's income tax benefit, even if they had to care for the baby for only a few seconds at the end of the calendar year. Parents of kids born at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1 have to provide a whole year's care for the same tax benefit in the year of the child's birth.
This is why you see so many very pregnant women splitting cords of wood on New Year's Eve. Their tax-savvy spouses are pushing them to get that tax deduction out into the world before midnight.
My soft spot for the last baby born in the year carries over into some other realms as well. I gave a lecture on the evening of Dec. 30, 1999 to a group of recent law school graduates who were preparing for the bar exam. It was a four-hour lecture, because tax is a complicated subject. No other West Coast state tests for tax knowledge on the bar exam, and thus it was a pretty safe bet that I had given the last tax lecture of the millennium on the entire planet, and the last bar review lecture of the millennium in the Lower 48.
Then there was the year that my Hood-to-Coast Relay team was part of the very last group to start the race at Timberline Lodge. The race organizers seed the fast teams toward the end, and except for me (who was there to provide comic relief in the van), the team I was on was darn fast. And so they started us in the last group.
As the weakest runner on the team, I was given the easiest series of race segments, runner no. 2. The first leg this runner handles is all downhill, from Government Camp to about five miles west. (The first leg -- Timberline to Govvie -- is not the place for a weak runner, because it's actually too steep a slope. You can fly down it with the huge assist from gravity, but injury is a real hazard because you're basically stopping yourself the whole way.)
As I stood in the dark with the other runners at the hand-off point in Government Camp at the start of our first segment, the runners from the first leg came churning in from their descent. The other teams had stacked some very speedy rabbits in my assigned leg, and as they took their teams' batons, the other folks with whom I had been standing around started absolutely flying downhill. I plodded along at my sickly, careful pace, while every single other runner passed me.
And that's when it hit me: Of all the thousands of runners in the Hood-to-Coast, I was the very last one. And as I couldn't pass anyone, I stayed in last place for the whole segment.
Tonight I likely racked up another "last" distinction, as I took a long (for me) run down to the east side of the Morrison Bridge along the Katz Esplanade. I wanted to be sure to break 200 miles run for the year 2004, and I was a couple of miles short with only a few hours left. So off I went. The rain was hard, the wind was brisk, the black water was choppy, and the temperature hovered around 40. There was literally not another soul on the esplanade between the Steel Bridge (where a couple of homeless guys were roaming around) and the Morrison (under which two more were hunkered down in their sleeping bags).
I love that run when I have it all to myself. And given how deserted it was, I suspect I may have been the last jogger of 2004 on that path. I'd like to think I was, anyway.
Here's to the last baby born in 2004. And a happy New Year for the rest of us.