The most troubling part of starting a new year is the changing of the guard, or rather, the calendar.
It has to be just the right size to fit into the space on the wall between a kitchen cupboard and the back door. It has to have room enough to list birthdays, orthodontist appointments and haircuts, but not be so big that it becomes a focal point of the kitchen and gets in the way of the door opening and closing.
It has to have upbeat pictures on it that change with the month so it doesn’t get boring. But mostly, it has to be free.
Even though I will not fork over for a calendar, I do peruse them in card shops and bookstores. Many calendars are works of art. Many are junk. Many are humorous, many are stupid. Some are meaningful, others are entertaining. Some are antipollution, anti-men and anti-social. Others are profane, profound or provocative. Some are just a boring collection of days that form months that form a new year. All are expensive.
To me, there’s something unAmerican about the thought of buying calendars. It used to be that you could count on the gas station attendant who washed your windshield with each fill-up to give you a calendar at year’s end with pictures of antique autos.
You could pick up calendars with pictures of farm animals while getting mash for the laying hens at the feed store. You could get scenes of wildflowers on grocery-store calendars and girlie calendars at the lumberyard. (I know that because I saw one once in the garage at the home of a boy I dated in high school. It was his father’s calendar.)
Other merchants also passed out calendars: the bank, the insurance company, the drugstore, the cleaners, the tire store, the doctor’s office, the car wash, the veterinarian. It seems that business people tried to outdo each other at who could pass out the best-looking calendars.
They couldn’t wait to place one in your hands and see your response. All of the calendars were imprinted with the names of the merchants or businesses. It was their way of advertising with you for the whole year.
Some came with teensy, tiny pencils attached. Some had pockets for stashing monthly bills or birthday cards that needed to be mailed that month. Some had recipes on them that could be clipped. Others had forms for grocery lists and memos.
They were so nice and so plentiful and so free, that sometimes we would hang a calendar in every room. Some were desk-sized, others king-sized, the likes of which you could hang in the barn or on a wall in the office. Others were just right to hang in the kitchen by the back door, so everyone could glance at them while heading out for the day.
But that was then and this is now. I was lamenting a few days ago that maybe, just maybe, this year I was going to have to buy myself a wall calendar.
But lo and behold, the neighborhood grocer didn’t let me down. He presented me a calendar that is just the right size, has pictures of scenic spots in the good old U.S. of A. and has spaces to write in important dates. And best of all, it was free. A great way to start off the new year, don’t you think?