In the fledgling days of January 1994, a wannabe “motivational shaper” of young men and women—a slick, narcissistic retail store manager, actually—crudely produced an employee “handbook,” which he dubbed: “1994: A New Year, A New Focus,” It was passed out to his less than enthusiastic underlings. The thing amounted to yet another New Year’s series of resolutions to do better and be better on a whole host of fronts—yada...yada...yada. But these resolutions were for a workforce, chronicling what exactly was expected of them along, of course, with explanations why doing more for less would simultaneously build character and make the overall job experience more rewarding. While early January 1994 was, indisputably, a new year, the desired new focus, I can assure you, didn’t come to pass. In fact, whatever new there was about the 1994 focus was a whole lot worse than anything that preceded it!
From my perspective at least, the first couple of weeks in January have invariably been unpleasant—starkly so. As a boy, this stretch of time sealed Christmas’s coffin tight. All the preparation and anticipation for the holiday vanquished in one fell swoop! And the sour icing on the cake was that it was back to the always-dreaded school after a typically event- and fun-filled Christmas vacation—in the dead of winter no less—with very little to look forward to on the upcoming calendar. Trudging off to school in the New Year’s morning cold was nightmarish and a compelling reminder that all good things come with a price—and, too, come to an end. All that was left in early January was to pray for snow.
While Christmastime to me is now a mere shadow of its former self—my youthful exuberance irretrievably lost in the past—I still experience the January blues. On Christmas Eve 2015, the temperature here in New York City set a record: seventy-three. I ran an errand at four o’clock that afternoon without wearing a jacket. My trusty mailman, Yu, delivered the Christmas Eve mail in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. He also donned his plastic postal safari hat—summer wear and a sign of the climes. This morning—less than two weeks later—the temperature was in the teens, and Yu’s safari hat rested in his locker. Today’s bitter cold, too, at long last cast asunder 2015’s geraniums, begonias, and flowering roses. No frost in these parts until early January was unprecedented in my lifetime!
By chance on the second day of this month, I found myself in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center and the Christmas tree. Once upon a time, Christmas was incomplete without seeing that tree. But I hadn’t been down there at Christmastime—on purpose—in a very long time. I decided, however, to venture past it—for old times sake and, perhaps, for the last time. Because one never knows—I’m not getting any younger. Truth be told, I wasn’t very impressed. The tree seemed smaller and scragglier than I remembered it. I doubt that it was. But seeing it in the bright light of day and, yes, in January, was a deadly one-two punch.
On the heels of my tree trip to bountiful, I walked past Radio City Music Hall. And I didn’t experience the same feelings—not by a long shot—that I had when I saw A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Scrooge, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and 1776 at Christmastime (1969-1972.) Upon exiting a subway car at Grand Central Station at the age of just seven, I got wedged between closing doors. I was on my way to see the aforementioned A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Such is life! It’s 2016 now, a presidential election year, and there’s a thing called Facebook. When it’s too hot, people deliver sermons and when it’s too cold, they do as well. 2016: A New Year, A New Focus. Maybe this is the year I get stuck in a subway door once more and all will be well again.