Turning 12 on 12/12/12 marks ‘special’ year for Stockton Springs girl

Posted Dec. 08, 2012, at 5 p.m.
Mary Brenna Catus
Mary Brenna Catus Buy Photo
Mary Brenna Catus poses in front of an airplane flown by Amelia Earhart in August in the Smithsonian Institute's Air and Space Museum.
Sharon Catus
Mary Brenna Catus poses in front of an airplane flown by Amelia Earhart in August in the Smithsonian Institute's Air and Space Museum.
Mary Brenna Catus (second from left) celebrates her 12th birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.. She gathered with her mother, Sharon Catus (left), stepfather Paul Bock and sister Jacey Bock to talk about the special day.
Mary Brenna Catus (second from left) celebrates her 12th birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.. She gathered with her mother, Sharon Catus (left), stepfather Paul Bock and sister Jacey Bock to talk about the special day. Buy Photo

STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — The numerical anomaly of turning 12 on Dec. 12, 2012 — that’s 12/12/12 — is especially appropriate for Mary Brenna Catus.

Math is her favorite subject at Searsport District Middle School, and numbers figure to play a big part in her life, if her goal to become an aeronautical engineer comes to fruition.

The birthday is Wednesday, but Mary will celebrate Sunday with a pool party that will include 25 of her friends. The quiet young woman happily conceded allowing her 7-year-old sister to bring five of her friends as well.

Mary was elected to the student council this fall after beginning sixth grade at the school, and also joined the math team. But Mary is well-rounded, her mother, Sharon notes. Mary ran cross-country this fall, finishing 16th in a regional meet that also included seventh- and eighth-graders.

“I’ve always been an amazing runner,” she said matter-of-factly in an interview Saturday, sliding shyly closer to her mother who sat next to her at the dining room table in the family’s home. At not-quite-12, she’s almost as tall as her mother, with long legs that come in handy on the course, Mom said.

With the special birthday looming earlier this year, her mother and father offered to take Mary anywhere she wanted for a vacation. Mom breathed a sigh of relief, she recalled, when Mary said “Washington D.C.,” and not Europe.

After growing out of the “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up” phase, the idea of designing spacecraft began to intrigue her. Mary’s hero is Amelia Earhart, which is one of the reasons why she wanted to visit the nation’s capital, home to the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum.

“She empowered a lot of people,” Mary said of Earhart. While there, she got to see a plane flown by Earhart.

“This was my special year,” Mary said.

It hasn’t always been easy. Her mother, who is an archaeologist, met her father while working in the West Indies. Mary was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, on the island of St. Thomas. But her father died, and she and her mother moved.

The family — which now includes Sharon’s husband Paul Bock and their daughter Jacey, 7 — have planned a trip to the island next year.

The family has been living in a 200-year-old Cape Cod house on Cape Jellison for the last seven years. Sharon serves on the RSU 20 school board — which may have inspired Mary to run for student council, she agrees — and Paul runs Stoney Knoll Archaeological Supplies, Inc.

Mary, who is in the school’s gifted and talented program, likes the opportunity to be challenged.

“I like how my teacher pushes me, and gives me extra work,” she said of math class. She also enjoys science, where the class is studying astronomy. Though she is coming of age in the post-Apollo and post-Space Shuttle era, Mary believes space remains a frontier worth exploring.

“There might be possibilities out there that we can’t even dream of,” she said, a statement that elicits a “well said” from her father.

In her humanities class, students are blogging about a fictional character living in the middle ages, which she also enjoys.

In addition to running, Mary enjoys quilting and making pottery.

“I like doing stuff with my hands — things that are useful,” she said. “I’m making a sampler quilt now.”

And in the summer, she participates in a sailing program offered in Stockton Springs by a nonprofit group that includes Maine Maritime Academy alumni.

It’s a busy life, but one in which she is thriving, her parents say. The 12/12/12 will give her an extra reason to take a break for some fun.

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