I’m not sure how you keep track of your appointments and major events in life, but in this house we still use the good old wall calendar. Blue pen for doctor’s appointments. Red pen for important stuff. Black lines with arrows that look like they were drawn by a first grader. Blocking out dates for graduations, vacations, and baby showers. Yellow highlighters are banned.
Or at least, we used to do this. Beth was the keeper of the calendar. If I wanted to write something down, I had to clear it with her first.
I have recently become more connected to my personal digital device for such things as birthday reminders, dates and times for allowing the doctor to probe for health concerns, prompts to make promised phone calls from said device, and grocery list items that pop into my head while watching my DAWGS beat the pants off Michigan.
The other night, my son was riffling through one of our closets. He came to the living room with an armful of calendars.
“What you want me to do with these?”
My first inclination was to toss them. “Just bag ‘em up and we’ll take ‘em out with the trash this weekend.”
In true form of the male species, he laid them on the kitchen table.
Throughout the day, I walked past them a number of times. Spiral bound pictures of horses or exotic landscapes or cute puppies. A professional photographer poured his soul into the April cover of spring wildflowers. He risked frostbite for a picture of a buffalo snorting steam on the frozen tundra of Yellowstone.
You have to admit. The photographs are awesome.
My wall calendar at work comes from places like Neal Brothers Tire Company. Miss May is a 1969 Chevelle SS. Mason Tractor Company features a parade of John Deere green and International Harvester red. For 2022, it’s Hawkins Oil Company. They keep our diesel tank at the farm full. Hunting and fishing is the theme. I’ve already looked ahead. November is a man walking the edge of a dried corn field with his dog, shotgun folded over one shoulder.
I’m no authority, but calendars are probably destined to be a forgotten relic. They’ll go the way of cassette tapes and vinyl 45s of Elvis. Some old geezer will be sitting around his grandkids who do everything digitally, and he’ll say, “I remember when we wrote on a calendar to keep up with things.” And they’ll say, “Dang you, Spiderman. Uh? What? Gramps, did you say something?”
I must have walked through the kitchen a dozen times. Just doing little chores, going to the door to call for Max, making a sandwich at the counter. That pile of calendars finally got to me. I sat down at the kitchen table and pulled them over in front of me.
The oldest one dates back to 2003. Not ancient, by any means. But almost 20 years old, now. I started flipping pages.
Most of the notes are in Beth’s handwriting. Laura would have been a junior in high school that year, a senior by fall. Which means that we had two in high school and one finishing up junior high. Beth was also teaching 4th grade over at Mountain View Elementary in Manchester. It was my second year with this little start-up company called Diversified Trees.
I remember how busy life was back 20 years ago, but ghee-whiz, this calendar almost makes me nauseous. In the first two months alone, there are ten dental appointments, two mammograms, one kid trip to a doctor at Emory, a ladies’ retreat with the church folk, an SAT test at CSU, a 50th wedding anniversary up in Cartersville, a middle school dance, the high school beauty pageant, my Mama’s birthday, a church fellowship meal, three youth group outings and two PTA meetings.
That’s just January and February. We were both working. The grocery shopping and house chores had to be done. I think we ate somewhere in there, so meals had to be cooked and cleaned up. Homework had to be done. Clothes had to be washed and put away. And the few hours left over were for fitful nights of sleep.
I kept flipping through page after page. Calendar after calendar. This is like a time capsule that contains the history of our family.
May 27, 2003, we all got our tetanus shots because the week of June 15th we went on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico with Casas Por Christo to build a house. We slept on a concrete floor in sleeping bags. We worked in temperatures hot enough to bake biscuits. And my wife bought vanilla extract in a bottle the size and shape of a California wine. Nearly ten years later, I think we still have half a bottle to go.
July is covered up. Only four blank squares on the calendar. Basketball practice every Monday and Wednesday at 6:30. Four more dental appointments. A Subway work schedule that belonged to one of the kids. Youth camp. Band camp. Beth’s first in-service workday when teachers report for duty.
Fall belonged to high school football because we had two in the marching band. We saw half-time shows in Macon, Columbus, Jackson, Thomaston and at the home field. Band booster meetings. A band competition in Warner Robbins. An entire Saturday of horns and drums ripping off their best version of “Eye of the Tiger.”
2003 ended with Christmas plays and concerts. Scheduled Christmas shopping. Three Christmas parades. A trip to Selma, AL. Kids going to Christmas parties. Church events. Money due for a youth ski trip in January. One PTA meeting. And life would not be complete without two more trips to see the dentist.
These are just the highlights of 2003. Because my wife kept them, I have a set of calendars up through 2021. Around 2014, the notes got more and more sparse. The commitments started coming at us with less frequency. The last college graduation hit us that year. There was a fitting for a wedding dress and a wedding. Braces and dental work was wrapping up. We were, thank God, done with PTA meetings. Done with chasing school buses to Friday night games.
Life is always changing. The house gets quiet. Trash bags fill up slower. Fewer plates at the table. The doors open and slam less often. The washer and dryer take longer rests. It’s been years since I had sleeping bags full of teenagers sprawled out all over the house on the floor.
Part of me misses the rush and clutter of those years. A wiser and more settled part of me embraces all the empty space on the 2022 calendar. I don’t know what this year holds. I’m not sure if I’ll write anything down or not.
No matter, I’m confident that this year will be full of all the stuff that counts. The days will tick away, and memories will be made. Because life goes on.
But what a hoot to dig through a stack of calendars. To touch them. To recognize the handwriting. To remember.
First thing on my new calendar. DAWGS WIN!