The Kid Calendar

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Things change for me all the time in my 40s. I wake up to new aches and pains and each week seems to bring with it a new thing on or in my body that has decided to stop working like it used to. I discover hair where once there was no hair and no hair where once hair reigned. My doctor is on speed dial. I look in the mirror and say “huh” a lot and then I invariable follow that with “oh well.” It’s quite a show.

One of the things I miss most about being a kid is enjoying the Kid Calendar. You know, the phases, feelings, and events that influenced and were influenced by the changing seasons and months. When I was a kid, the Kid Calendar was a wholly different one than the one our parents followed. Each event and date on the Kid Calendar meant some new shift or focus for my kid brain.

While my parents’ calendar read June, July, and August, the Kid Calendar combined those all into one thing: summer. This was a huge highlight of the Kid Year. As such it was earmarked for freedom, fun, sunburns, tick inspections, and wounds that would turn light pink under said sunburn. There might be a trip to the ocean, a leniency period on bedtimes and curfews. Summer was a time to spend outdoors. The woods and the Neshaminy River were our daily venue, adventure was the name of the game. If a summer day ended without bleeding or at least one run-in with a deadly creature, then it was not a successful summer day.

September was part of the triumvirate of phase and change in the Kid Calendar. But September is one of the few months that are marked the same in the Kid and the Parent Calendar: Back to School. Summer in America ended and school began. Bittersweet. The long, damp, hot northeast summer days changed to short crisp fall days. The sound of lawnmowers made their last appearance like the last few bees hanging dizzily around the drooping flowers. Baseball went into its homestretch, football began. School itself was bittersweet. On the one hand, there was Back to School shopping, which meant getting a load of new stationery, notebooks, trapper keepers, a ruler, Elmer’s glue. It required trying on striped shirts and legwear called a variety of things depending on who said them – pants (mom), trousers (grandmom), slacks (dad). September was when we chose a lunchbox, offering your dedication to a character (Smurfs, Garfield, Scooby Doo) you’d be stuck with for a year. Unscrewing the cup lid off the thermos made you crave chocolate milk. But all of those things meant you were going back to school. Bittersweet. You got to see your friends again, you had a whole new list of subjects and books, but you lost summer, freedom, the swimming pool, summer barbecues, feigning interest in an extra inning game so that you could stay up with your parents a bit longer.  

As a teacher, I still exist within this framework, but on the grown up side. I am forced to adhere to the Adult Calendar, so while I get a schedule and new stationery, it’s without the excitement I experienced when younger. Going into a classroom as a teacher means hours of preparation instead of looking forward to learning something new. And though I love the weather change to fall, I know where it’s going and that creates an outpost of dread in the horizon.

With Kid September came the promise of the following months, aka the holiday season. In three short months, you had Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Chanukkah or Christmas. Halloween was preceded by the whole of October; spooky, mysterious, dark too early, brilliantly blue skied October. The time when scary stories were somehow scarier, when walking into the woods behind our houses was a spooky experience when a month before it had been full of imagination and games. Now the shedding trees seem misaligned, creepy, like a cute cat rendered alien by alopecia. One expected a witch to appear, a gang of trolls, a Hobbit on a quest.  

Kid October culminated in Halloween. A night of unmatched fun and excitement. Dressing up and getting candy. The resulting stomachache meant nothing and no lessons in our house were learned. No moderation was achieved until a much later date and medical intervention. The day after Halloween, fall officially ended on the Kid Calendar.

Thanksgiving was a rest-stop on the road to Christmas. But it was a good one. On the Kid Calendar it was Turkey Day: two days off school. I knew I got to see my cousins and my extended family. I knew we would eat turkey for four days after the dinner. I knew that when we came back, it was the festive time of year that led up to Christmas, the biggest day on the Kid Calendar. (Of course my Jewish friends attached similar importance to Chanukkah).  

When my dad once intimated that he liked Thanksgiving more than Christmas, it was so inconceivable that I thought he had misunderstood the question. How could a person not be gaga over a day of presents that took place in the middle of a break from school and which came after a month of cheer, Christmas viewing, and special activities in school? I only realized his point of view when I stopped using the Kid Calendar and realized that Christmas is a far different experience and time of year for parents and adults.       

Christmas on the Kid Calendar was the most sacred day of the year and we couldn’t make parents understand what it felt like when it was over. The best day of the year was December 24th, before everything happened, the seasonal magic at its peak, family and fun. It was euphoric. The worst day of the year was December 25th after about 10 am. The magic was over, Santa had been and gone, the enticing gifts were unwrapped and their secrets were told. Devastating. The devastation was recovered slightly when you remembered that you didn’t have school for another week. While you held onto it, you knew this was only a teaser and that the hard part of the year was coming up.

January and February might as well not exist on the Kid Calendar. The bleak, post-Christmas months that didn’t even have the common decency to be spring yet. No, they just existed there like a black peach pit. The only thing you could look forward to in these months was Friday afternoon and the end of the school week.

But then something remarkable happened. You woke up on day and you realized it was March. Yes, March. Sure, it’s still cold and there’s the definite possibility of snow, but it’s March. Not January, not February. You consulted the Kid Calendar and it said: Not Quite Spring, but Not Winter. You realized the days were a little longer and it wasn’t still dark when you sat in your first class of the day. The radio guys started talking about baseball. “Pitchers and catchers reporting.” And you realized, oh my God, is it possible? Are we almost there again?

It’s not until later that you realize how quickly this year goes, whether you abide the Kid or the Parent Calendar. By the time you pick up on that, it’s too late.     

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