An unlikely present

Andrew Woolfolk — Andrew adopts the tradition his father started, by journaling in his calendar. Photo credit: Alyssa Bockman

When most people want the new electronic, others only need a calendar

You would be hard pressed to find a day more anticipated than Dec. 25. For most people, Christmas morning consists of dragging themselves out of bed, fumbling down the steps and promptly gauging the size of each intricately wrapped present, pondering which one will be the most rewarding to open so it can be set aside to be opened last. But that is a task I no longer need to do. No, I already know the size and shape of what my favorite present will be. Heck, I know what it is already. There will be no surprise when I open it, just appreciativeness and contentment.

The present? A yearly calendar. Yes, you read that right, a yearly calendar.

What is so special about that, you ask? Allow me to explain the significance. It all started with my father on Christmas in 1972. That year, he decided to buy a calendar and write down a short summary of the day in the space provided. Nothing spectacular, just enough information in the one-inch square space to give his mind a chance to have a flashback, to get that feeling of “Oh yeah, I remember that.” The few sentences form the perfect representation of the male thought process: contrite, to-the-point, but not so long as to make you fall under that horrible title of a diary keeper.

From 1973 on, Dad wrote. Frequent appearances in his calendar are daily temperatures and weather patterns, daily tasks, and, of course, random arrows and streaks of highlighter marking the corresponding hunting season that has commenced.

Every day, a few sentences. Every day, a few more memories are preserved. This has gone on for nearly 40 years strong now, no vacations, no breaks for holidays, no missed entries.

Dad was first inspired to keep his thoughts written down by an old Chinese proverb. It stated that “The faintest of ink is as good as the strongest of memory,” and he decided to put the maxim to the test. Years later, all of his calendars are preserved, for my dad is as meticulous as he is organized. To this day, sitting on the hearth beside his La-Z-Boy chair in the family room are his calendars from the past three years. If the day is Nov. 9, he makes sure to look at what he did on that day in the past three years. If he wants to spice it up, he’ll lumber up the stairs to his office and grab a random year. It’s his time to reflect on what he’s done in life, good or bad, and hopefully learn a little bit.

Now, I do it too. I’m just another apple that fell right under the tree and did not roll far enough away. The end of this year will mark my first full year of “journaling.” It took some dedication — every day you must take at least a few minutes to gather your thoughts and reflect on what you did. It becomes a habit, every 24 hours for me to sit, write down how I feel, what I have done and what I have learned.

To scour over the happenings of the past year stirs the emotions, to say the least. There are the good moments, filled with days celebrating birthdays, the impromptu football games, crazy rock concerts or days spent quietly on the lake. There are the bad days too, ones of inactivity, unfulfilled promises or tragic losses. The feelings of that day come back. You laugh at some memories and you cry at some others, but you thank the Lord you remember them.

This upcoming Christmas, I know which present I will open last, and I look forward to the daily reprieve of filling up the next 365 days with even more memories. This upcoming year, I know I will laugh, I know I will cry, and I hopefully will learn something. And maybe, just maybe, I will be able to act a little surprised when I open the present.

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