2020 has been a year to remember, though some would make the argument that it’s a year best forgotten.
Borrowing from FDR, let’s just say it’s a year that will live in infamy. No. 1 on the 2020 hit parade was COVID-19, but we also had political and racial tensions, conspiracy theories, disbelief in science, and, at the forefront of it all, Donald J. Trump.
I, for one, am glad it’s over. On to the new year.
New Year’s Eve traditions range from the obligatory and overtired—the ball drop, whether witnessed on TV or from a holding pen in Times Square—to the enjoyable and slightly bizarre, such as my family standing on a street corner in Staten Island at 12:01 waving sparklers, blowing into noisemakers, banging metal cookware, and yelling “Happy New Year!” at passing motorists.
These are the flash (and the pans), but a more subtle, satisfying beginning to a new year comes with the placement of a new calendar on the wall. There’s usually no shortage of Gregorian (i.e., standard) calendars in our home, mainly those produced by charities like Easterseals, St. Jude, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation, and PETA. This is due to my extended family’s modest but consistent charitable giving, and their charitable regifting of the annual calendar “thank-yous” they receive. In 2020, I think we could have managed a calendar in every room in the house.
Occasionally, a store-bought calendar finds its way into the house, usually received as a gift, and usually purchased from a retail store like Go! Calendars, Toys & Games, where one can find a wide range of themed calendars, from “Coastlines” to “Outhouses,” Ansel Adams to Baby Yoda. There’s even a calendar that lets you exercise to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s workout routine, which, from a side-by-side comparison of the 2020 and 2021 calendars, has not been noticeably altered by her death. And to be sure, there are abundant quantities of dog calendars and cat calendars.
Wall calendars are sold on the strength of their photos, which are generally of high enough quality that hosting-on-a-budget types might create a cheap but very presentable coffee table book by simply tearing photos from different calendars and collecting them under a hard cover and new binding. Such a book might also give rise to a parlor game, in which readers attempt to guess the locations depicted in scenic landscapes and locales around the world. Or they might guess at the publication provenance of the photo itself: Was that image of cat and dog companions selected from the “Cats and Dogs 2021” calendar, for example, or the “2021 Dogs and Cats” calendar? Did I mention there are lots of dog calendars and cat calendars? Well, there are also a lot of calendars featuring dogs and cats together.
There’s another variable to consider when purchasing a calendar—its time span. In the late 1920s, George Eastman championed the International Fixed Calendar, a strange, modified 13-month calendar that featured an extra month between June and July called “Sol,” 28 days per month, and one extra day at the end of the year called—what else?—”Year Day.”
But that was just a different way to arrange 365 days, and in 2021, a 13-month calendar is typically just a regular 12-month calendar plus an extra month from the following year, offering a bit of leeway for those who don’t make the effort to get a 2022 calendar before the end of December. I assume this bonus month makes a 13-month calendar approximately 1/13 more attractive than a comparably priced 12-month calendar. And I can only assume it’s a war of constant one-upmanship that led to the 14-month calendar, the 15-month, 16-month, and will one day result in a wall calendar so thick it requires custom wall anchors and power tools to install.
I favor the simple, classic 12-month calendar. Once, the only reasons to buy a calendar outside of December or January were that you 1) were an early holiday shopper, or 2) had some significant change recently occur in your life: a move, new job, marriage, divorce. But now, people who’ve fallen prey to the siren song of the 16-month calendar wander aimlessly into office supply stores in April, searching for a calendar that starts mid-year (they do exist, but aren’t common). They’re stuck buying a 12-month calendar that’s only got 8 months left to it, paying full price for an item that has lost a third of its usefulness—unless they buy another 16-month calendar, or longer, instead. Thus, the vicious calendar cycle continues.
All of these calendar considerations might seem a bit overwhelming, but luckily, much like having an American Express card in the late 1980s, being a Hamilton resident has its privileges—namely the free 12-month calendar distributed annually in December. It’s pre-populated with events of local interest, like “Recycling,” or the Division of Health’s weekly STD Clinic. Though it’s sometimes difficult to fit your own daily notes and appointments in the meager space between, say, a “Household Hazardous Waste Event” notice and a “Tax Sale” advisory, this minor hardship is more than offset by handy access to important contact information and the inclusion of the invaluable “How Do I Get Rid Of It” guide. In a year of uncertainty, a set of hard and fast rules regarding the proper disposal of pianos and railroad ties does much to assuage one’s anxiety.
Calendars have served many purposes, for a time measured across many calendars. In post-apocalyptic films, a dusty calendar on the wall of an abandoned room has long been the method of choice for showing exactly when the apocalypse actually happened. The word “calendar” has been separating the wheat from the chaff in grade school spelling bees since at least 1980, when it snagged not one, not two, but three contenders at St. Clare School in Staten Island.
Most people would argue that a calendar’s main purpose is to assist in planning out the future, as all those scrawled notes for birthdays, doctor’s appointments, and social commitments can attest. The ink may be permanent, but the calendar and everything it measures is ephemeral.
When a calendar runs out of months, it transforms, if only briefly, to an object with another function. Before it’s tossed out with the piano and the railroad ties, it provides a mini-history, the ability to go back and retrace a year’s path. For 2020, the path didn’t stray far from home, and the pages of the calendar, with little in the way of scheduled outings, were mostly empty.
But a new year brings hope. And a new wall calendar, along with a new marijuana law, allows for different interpretations of a similar opportunity—to turn a new leaf, together, all at once.