Whew. February 3rd. We've definitely put January behind us. I think we humans of a certain latitude deserve a pat on the back for making it through what I consider to be the toughest month of the year. No other month is as daunting. The average temperature is 30 degrees. That is, when Polar Vortices aren't sweeping through our households with sub-zero wind chills, busting our pipes, exhausting our furnaces. It still gets dark early. All the Christmas sweets are gone, and we're supposed to be okay with that, ready to embrace new resolutions to deprive ourselves, as if turning the calendar over magically makes us better people. It doesn't! Even the mail is depressing....no more Christmas cards. Instead, we get to keep a look-out for our W-2's.
January is the only month without a fun-lovin' holiday. February has Valentine's and Mardi Gras. March has spring break. Greedy April has earth day, and that ever popular family favorite, "4:20." Of course then there's May Day, the summer solstice in June, the 4th of July.....August has dog days....I don't know for sure what those are, but if dogs are involved, I'm sure they're nice. We have Labor Day in September, which is the opposite of what it sounds like----I imagine being rounded up and driven off to some antiquated factory for my mandatory shift assembling airplane motors, when in fact I'll be sleeping in and my most difficult task will be trying to answer the question, "Hamburgers? Or hot dogs?" It goes without saying that October has Halloween, November has Thanksgiving, and December is stuffed to the gills with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.
That leaves January. I think the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is a good and important thing, but here the mood is reflective, the focus being King's towering legacy, and how to move that forward. Sure, January does have New Year's day, if your idea of a holiday is nursing a hang-over and eating black-eyed peas. We all know the real party happens the night before---in December. When you think about it, both of January's holidays are more about --in one sense or another -- sobriety, than having fun.
That "morning after" feel of New Year's Day is useful though, in that it helps you prepare for what lies ahead. It hits you as you hang your new calendar, the one in which January is paired with a photo of a desolate winterscape, and you think. "Thirty more days of this god-forsaken month!"
But maybe I'm being too hard on January, and not entirely honest. I complain, but I like the low expectations I'm allowed to have during this harshest of months. It's dark out, therefore I don't have to go anywhere after 7:00 pm. It's cold, therefore I can dress and eat like a Mongolian sheepherder. New Year's Resolutions?---meant to be broken! Most people will secretly applaud as your resolve crumbles. It lowers the bar for them.
Even so, I welcome February! The back end of old man winter (don't let the screen door hit you on your way out), the hope---nay, the demand!---for chocolate, the bon temps rouler-ing....Black History Month.... Also, February is the shortest month, the only cold-weather month that has the sense to turn in early. But the biggest thing February has going for it is ---it isn't January.