Monday, November 24, 2008

days of our lives

Hey, be of good cheer! It's the most calendar time of the year.

Come November, calendars are as ubiquitous as Christmas carol Muzak filling retail stores. Long gone are the days when calendars were primarily given away by gas stations and other local businesses. Some years ago, an enterprising calendar manufacturer obviously had this thought: People are going to need new calendars anyway, so why not market them as Christmas presents?

It's one of those brilliant marketing strokes that's multiplied like those notoriously fecund tribbles on that famous original Star Trek episode. And much like the tribbles, calendar displays threaten to devour many a book or stationery store.

There are animal calendars, famous dead people calendars, famous artists and photographer calendars, baby calendars, ecological calendars, verging on the pornographic calendars, funny calendars and pious calendars, to name a few. Just about every self-help book has found its way into a calendar of its own.

Like most folks, I pause at the displays, weighing my choice for the approaching new year. I tend to go in cycles. For several years, I purchased Ansel Adams calendars, with the intention of framing the photos once the year expired. I didn't, of course. Most recently, it's been a series of Marilyn Monroe calendars -- same intention, same result.

So what happens to these outdated calendars? They're tossed out, right? Wrong. They are addedto the growing pile in the corner of a closet. I can't throw them away. Now, I'm not just talking about those with fancy artwork. My repository includes all manner of date books.

I used to think I was the only weirdo who has trouble throwing out old calendars, but an informal poll of my friends has turned up others afflicted with the same malady--although they insist they're only saving the prints of famous photos or great paintings and the like. Donkey dust.

I don't buy it.

Every few years, I stumble across my yellowing collection of bygone days and try to toss 'em. I can't. In thumbing through the pages, I'm struck by how the most mundane list of appointments floods me with memories. Discarding them would be like disposing of those years of my life. Silly, huh? After all, I do keep a journal. But it's just not the same.

Unlike journal entries, calendar notations are impromptu and therefore more revealing. There is something about the ordinariness and periodic repetition of calendar entries that evokes the rhythm of the days. And the form of a monthly calendar visually spreads out time before your eyes, encouraging a different perspective, uncovering growth or lack of same. It's almost impossible to avoid noticing crowded weekdays and lonely weekends, for instance.

As time goes by, not only do the details of our days pale, but often events blur and we tend to confuse the order or length of a particular incident. This jumps off the pages of distant calendars, much to our surprise.

Did I really spend so much time working on that project? Why did I stop at the cleaners so often? Boy, my allergies must have been driving me crazy. How did I find the time visit the gym so frequently? Has my brother really been gone so long? Gosh, I could have sworn Tom and I danced away that New Years Eve, etc.

Of course, it's quite possible that I'm especially sentimental, and all of you view old calendars simply as objects that have outgrown their usefulness, but I doubt it. So, who has trouble throwing out those little phone directories after you've bought a new one? Let's see a show of hands, please.

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