Calendars: Pragmatic or Artistic?

While I’m on the subject of redecorating the White House, I wonder if they’ll have a calendar in their kitchen? I’ve read that President Obama has a Blackberry, and of course he now has his own secretary and other staff to make sure he gets to where he needs to get to on time and on date, but Hubby and I–being of the typewriter generation–still rely on ye olde printed calendar to remind us of important dates.

Every first day of a new year, I take down our old calendars and put up the new ones with a few commitments and appointment dates already scribbled in January. I also have a second calendar we attach to the side of the refrigerator with a magnet with those same scribbles so that we can see them as we prepare breakfast. That way we’re constantly reminded of future appointments.

When I was a child, Mama hung calendars all over the kitchen wall, because nearly every community business my parents frequented, the local seed store, my uncle’s general store, even the Sheriff’s office where my brother worked as a Deputy for many years, gave us one. That must have been in the 1970s. The last time I visited her home, in 1999, that calendar from the sheriff with his staff pictured, including my brother, was still hanging in the very same spot it had occupied for years, only the pages at the bottom showing the days of the week had been removed.

Often she didn’t even bother to take last year’s down but just hung the new ones over the old. That way she could easily refer back to what had happened on certain days the previous year. Also, wedged between the wall and the calendar (whose pages made handy places to tack stray pins, incidentally), there was a funeral fan and sometimes a fly swatter.

When I was a young girl, and especially after I took Mrs. Guthrie’s class in Home Economics, I swore that when I grew up there would be no calendars in my house! Clearly, the number of items you allowed to collect on the mantel above the fireplace and the number of calendars hung about the house shouted your social status to the casual observer, like Mrs. G when she had occasion to be in our home. I decided what I chose to hang on my walls and display on my mantel would be more genteel and upscale, not advertisement for my friends in business, and not likely calendars.

Several years later, when I had my own place I broke that rule a little bit because one of the Professors I worked for brought me a calendar back from Germany with beautiful pictures rustic old buildings with wild roses attaching themselves to the sides. Pragmatic, but artistic, I reasoned.

For the next several years I always requested the coming year’s calendars whenever my professors traveled abroad and asked me what souvenir I’d like them to bring me. For those same several years I only allowed a “European” calendar in my kitchen.

Eventually–as I moved away and lost my access to professorial foreign travel–I resorted to buying what I considered to be “artful” calendars, like the one with pictures of porches across the southern U.S. Eventually that purchase turned more pragmatic, like those with a new recipe each month–usually of ethnic origin–like Miriam B. Loo’s Tempting Tarts & Pies (1981) and Seasoned With Love, a recipe card calendar (1980). There was the Sierra Club one year, and a Quilt one once.

Nowadays, I look forward each year to the big Utah Life Elevated calendar our real estate agent who helped us find our house in the Wasatch benches always sends to remind us she’s still around. It has fantastic pictures of some of the thousands of picturesque scenes around Utah, each featuring the month they represent–snow in winter, wildflowers in June, etc. That one takes center stage on the wall next to my desk.

About two years ago, our new independent insurance agent began to send us another, smaller, Utah calendar that we decided to use in the kitchen because it had pretty pictures and we didn’t want to just throw it away, not to mention that we spend a lot of time at the stove next to it. But two calendars in the house were more than enough, I decided.

This year, around October or November, I spotted another calendar in the library, this one from the metropolitan water district of our town. It features indigenous wildflowers that proliferate the mountainsides and our backyards if we learn to landscape our yards with them rather than grass, using little or no water other than that coming from the winter snows or  natural rainfall. Since it was so useful, and with such beautiful wildflower pictures, I had to think awhile about where I should put it.

That one now hangs at eye level on the wall beneath the medicine cabinet in the master bathroom, so that it’s the first thing I see as I take care of my morning ablutions. For the whole month of January I’ve been reading about the “Viola adorata” which are tougher than they appear, blooming in late winter when the snow melts and enduring summer’s heat by going dormant. Plant in full to part shade.

After 31 days of reading that same message over and over again, I think I’ll remember it. Plus, I’ll be reminded first thing every day about any upcoming appointments for the month. I peaked ahead and saw that February features Crocus. That will signal for me that the ones in our back yard will soon be peeking their little heads from the ground. I can hardly wait.

As I look back and reflect, I see that Mama might have needed those calendars, even though most of them had little or no asthetic beauty like mine. She needed them, not just to keep her life and world in some kind of order, but to remind her of things important to her: The father from whose funeral the fan came. The sheriff who grew up down the road from us. The sheriff deputy son she was so proud of because he helped keep her county safe. The days of the moon cycles that helped her and my father organize their planting.

Perhaps those calendars that were given to her by the community business leaders who were also her friends helped to keep her  grounded and rooted in her community. Maybe that’s why I’ve let three calendars creep into my life and home this year.

One of the problems I’ve seen over the years for new presidents is that of keeping in touch with the common, bread & butter people of our country. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea, despite all the Blackberries and other electronic date keepers and staff he’ll have on hand, if the Obamas have a calendar or two in their new kitchen, or hanging in the bathroom. Something from the nearest Seed & Feed store perhaps.

6 thoughts on “Calendars: Pragmatic or Artistic?

    • Better late than never with my comments (I hope!). Kay, I’ve been tempted many times but never did invest in a personal planner. Most of my days–other than classes and appointments–are seat o’the pants plans anyway. I need to take a course in organization.

      Mage, you’re wonderful as usual for saying such kind things. Actually, I do try very hard to write what I hope are good essays. Writing often is as good a way to improve as anything.

      And Royaltlady, you’re much too kind. I appreciate such an honor. Making friends in the blogging world is very good, and I hope to hear more from you. I feel we all can learn a lot from each other. Thanks to all who commented.

  1. Yup……..what a lovely idea. There has to be a feed store in the Washington area somewhere as there are lots of horses.

    This is just an exquisite essay……..humorous, balanced, making its point while leaving us smiling.

  2. Please come and check it out! Another deserving award for you…

    I am another calender freak… and clock too. I have them everywhere in the house.

  3. I have used an electronic calendar for many years because it made it easier when I worked … recently I have decided it isn’t doing me much good now that I’ve retired because I am not required to look at it every day. I will still probably keep it up because we plan to travel and my lap top will be there to remind me of birthdays and anniversaries … but it’s back to the regular calendar for me in the house. I picked up a little book/planner that was 75% off that I use and a free one from the pharmacy … but still need a nice one for the wall. I remember Mom’s calendars … it was like a little diary of what she did. After her death we came across a whole box of calendars she’d kept.

    • Hello Edna, long time no see. Your comment: like a little diary of what she did Since I wrote this post about calendars, I dug up my own archive dating from 1975. In March of 1980 we made our first family visit to India. I’ve never been one to record in diaries, but I did have the foresight to record on my calendar that year–after our return while my memory was still fresh–each day’s events during the weeks we were gone, where we went, who, little notes that serve well to jog my memory to this day. I’m so glad I didn’t just toss it out when 1981 rolled in. The note on the 13th is “arrived home around eleven [p.m. I’m pretty sure though it’s not noted] to be welcomed by snacks left by Cathey & Jan, and on the 14th of April I jot down “Jet Leg” for all. And though it wasn’t noted, I’m pretty sure I treated the girls to McDonalds the next day.

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