Jan 05, 2021
In What Are You Writing?
2021 rushed in with lots of hopes but no calendar. I’m not talking about electronic calendars. They have many uses, like knowing the day of the week in years long past. But I don’t want one snooping on my life. I mean a paper calendar, the kind on which we pin our annual hopes; the kind we pin on our walls. The fate of 25-plus of my years literally hung on having the right calendar on my walls. Those were my newspapering years. Somehow, New Bay Times muddled through the first two or three of those years with ordinary calendars, the kind fine for home. But a newspaper calendar needs big white pages, the right grid (correctness is important here) and big, beautiful, unadorned letters and numbers. An editor needs to see it every time she looks over her shoulder. It’s as much a part of the job as a speedometer to a car. That’s the calendar I dreamed of. The calendar I got surpassed my dreams. Instead of one month per page, this wonderful adaptation gave me three. With it on my wall, I could see where I was, where I was going and where I was coming from. It got still more pride points because it was a U.S. Congress calendar. The gift of our New Bay Times contributor M.L. Faunce, a Senate staffer by day, made my year, and several after. When M.L. retired, I trembled. Not even my husband, a Washington political reporter, could lay hands on such a treasure. My rescue came from printer Jim Martin, an Annapolis feature. His Freestate Press gave its customers a yearly three-up calendar. Instead of top spiral binding, Jim’s had padded, or glue-top, binding. Each year’s calendar was tinted a different color. On the first workday of each year, I took my widest-tipped felt marker and numbered each Thursday — the day our paper hit the streets — with that week’s issue number. Each month, I turned the page, adding a new month and the continuing sequence of numbers. Thus each year of a quarter-century passed. And order reigned in my world. Until 2020. Among the many losses of that year were my newspaper career and calendar. Devoted as I was to the three-month-up calendar, it never caught on with my fellow and mostly sister workers. They liked picture calendars. Alex Knoll—my son, partner and boss—liked them most of all. Books typically come to newspapers free in hopes of reviewing, and so, we found, do calendars. Each year I’d assign a staffer a story on the Chesapeake-related calendars, ideally ones produced locally. Our readers got an informative, well-illustrated story, and the flurry of incoming calendars kept our office up to date the whole next year. Included in the pile was, for a couple of years, one of scantily clad firefighters produced as a fundraiser by a volunteer fire department. I had second choice (Alex always got first, and neither of us chose the barely clothed fellows, honest.) Even so, my local pick didn’t always make the cut for home calendar of the year. There was always a gift calendar reflecting the cultural adventures of friends Rich Walsh and Alice Grindshaft. One year it was a calendar of Jewish art. Also competing were always a couple of advertising calendars from grocery and hardware stores. Bill would always snatch one for his office. Still, we could and sometimes did switch calendar month by month. Joining last year’s rotation was a NASA space calendar from Wallops Flight Facility, across the bay from Chincoteague. Then came 2021. Along with all its other faults, 2020 proved to be a bad year for calendars. With Bay Weekly’s sale, the font of local calendars dried up. Grocery and hardware stores may be giving out 2021 calendars. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been in either in 10 months. The calendar promised in the Washington Post December 9 special issue failed to arrive. Pretty as my 2020 calendar was— it featured Inuit line drawings, mostly of seabirds—it was headed for the recycling. If we kept all the attractive images that came our way, even well reproduced large ones, our massive paper collection might tip into hoarding. “I only keep ones I’ve written in,” husband Bill said. His office wall calendars from Greenpeace or the Wildnerness Society were full incomprehensible scribbling. I only wrote on desk calendars, and I have volumes of book-form calendars stashed in my yearly boxes. But on one calendar, the pictures were so lovely I couldn’t throw it away. Plus, it has recipes, including the one I use for “a mess of greens”— appealingly rime frosted in an accompanying photo. “See,” I said, pulling it out of my cookbook cupboard. “It doesn’t, it couldn’t …” said Bill. The 1993 Seed Savers Exchange calendar declared that Jan.1 fell on a Friday -- the same New Year’s Day as 2021! Only the cover advertised 1993. So nobody but you will know we’re recycling history.