Before I say what I’m about to say, let me first establish that I mean no disrespect to Dr. Martin Luther King. I also intend no offense to anyone who loves Three Kings Day, the NFL playoffs, or is in some other way weirdly devoted to the first month of the year.
January is without a doubt the crappiest month on the calendar.
First, let’s just do a quick comparison. Here’s a brief list of all the reasons to like each and every one of the other eleven months:
February- Valentine’s Day (which admittedly is better if you’re with someone; it’s nice being married); pitchers and catchers report
March- St. Patrick’s Day; spring training games begin
April- Easter; Opening Day; for five minutes, weather stops being unrelentingly savage; nightfall at long last is later than like two in the afternoon
May- Memorial Day; baseball in full swing; weather is finally fit for civilized people; periods of daylight now long enough to be appropriate to creatures who aren’t morlocks
June- More baseball; school ends; weather now actually good; blessed blessed swimsuit season is with us (what? I have two good eyes; also I have a hot wife); games that start at 7:10 need not turn lights on until the third or fourth inning
July- Independence Day; more baseball; weather and daylight hours now officially kick-ass; did I mention blessed blessed swimsuit season?
August- More baseball; weather and daylight hours still kick-ass; did I mention blessed blessed swimsuit season?
September- Labor Day; weather and daylight dip slightly, but still adequate; pennant races at full boil, taking sting out of losing blessed blessed swimsuit season
October- Topsfield Fair; Halloween; playoffs and World Series; my birthday; my son Jonesy’s birthday; weather and daylight take hit, but aren’t full-on stinko yet.
November- Daylight takes severe hit, but sudden onset of dusk in mid-afternoon kind of fun as a novelty for a couple of weeks; holiday train leaves the station with Thanksgiving the first major stop
December- CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS, AND MORE CHRISTMAS; AND NEW YEAR’S EVE; for many, myself included, oodles of time off; for others, at least chance to slack off big-time at work
Some months have a little more to recommend them than others, but every month at least has something to warrant its continued presence on the calendar. And then the year ends and we’re stuck with god-awful January.
January rolls in and the holidays roll out and stay rolled out for the longest possible time before they occur again. It hits you that there hasn’t been any baseball for a very long time and it’s going to be a very long time still before you see any. The cold is positively obscene. The snow that everyone would’ve thought was ever so charming just couple of weeks ago at Christmastime now just makes your commute a frozen hell that ought to be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. A commute you’re making again because you’re back to work or at least not able to goof off at it because as previously stated, the holidays are over.
No, there is nothing good about January…at that used to be the case.
Then along came one sweet adorable little laugh-machine of a boy and finally January has a justification for its existence.
It was practically the middle of the night when I started up the car to drive my wife to Beverly Hospital, north of Boston, Massachusetts. It was pitch dark but since it was January– January 28th to be precise– it could just as easily have been ten in the morning. Since it was January, we plunged down 128 South through snowdrifts. I don’t recall what the temperature was– I think I remember seeing an electronic billboard in front of a bank that read “absolutely bloody arctic.” We checked in, got set up in a semi-dark windowless room, and met with a series of tremendously skilled and very very nice doctors and nurses. One of these remarkable persons flooded the lower half of my wife’s body with drugs. I donned all manner of gowns and masks and just as I did with the birth of my first child, I felt what I think must be what an athlete feels as he suits up for a do-or-die playoff game. We all made our way down the hall to an operating room. The only thing I really remember next is a doctor very patiently explaining that maybe he should hold the camera while I picked up my new-born son and brought him over to my wife. Around a quarter of eleven or so I was seeing sunlight for the first time that day as I stood by a window just down the hall from the nursery. My wife and baby were both just fine so I had some time. Since it was January I figured I’d better enjoy the sun for the forty-five minutes it was going to be out so I camped out by that window and began making calls: sister-in-law, mom, mother-in-law, another sister-in-law, and so forth. As I did, I surveyed the scene outside that window.
It was a blasted frozen heath. The sun couldn’t have been more pointless: it served only to remind me of everything it was supposed to do and wasn’t doing even a little. Massive chunks of snow that I knew were at least sixty per cent grit and grime and therefore wouldn’t melt until Patriots Day dominated the scene. The trees looked every bit like they hadn’t seen leaves since before the last time any pitcher had thrown any meaningful pitch to a hitter waiting in a batter’s box. If George Lucas had looked upon this tableau, he would’ve tabbed it as the perfect setting for the planet Hoth and thought better of it because he’d know that, long time ago in a galaxy far far away or not, no one would believe that even a tauntaun could survive in a place like this. In a word, it looked like…January.
And to me, at that moment, it looked as beautiful as Eden itself. In the simple act of being born and being seven pounds and seven ounces of absolute perfection, Eamon Anthony Lilly had done what I had always thought to be impossible. He made January good.
January 2012 has been far milder than that January of 2011. Rationally, I know my boy Eamon hasn’t had anything to do with it, and yet I wouldn’t put it past him. A boy who looks like we found him playing in the merry woodland kingdom of the elves, a boy who seemingly does nothing but laugh and smile and play with his toys all day, a boy who could cheer up a Ted Nugent fan trapped at an Indigo Girls concert, might just be able to convince the weather to go easy on us at a time of year when it delights in tormenting us. His mere presence has transfigured the calendar. Today, my wife and I gathered with family and ate and drank too much. We watched a happy little boy rip open presents with the able assistance of his older brother. We partied and had a grand old time. The kind of stuff that was supposed to happen at the end of December and then not again approximately forever happened at the end of a month that used to be a 31-day abomination.
So congratulations January. All you used to be was a tremendous motivator for scientists trying to work out some practical means of hibernation for humans. You had nothing going for you. Now you have Eamon Anthony Lilly’s birthday.
You know you can take that and put it up against anything any other month has to offer and hold your head up high.