- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

I have no idea why the new year begins on Jan. 1. Not only does it seem contrived, but it’s just a bad time for me.

I get the whole thing about the calendar and the completion of the 12th month of the year. And yes, a new year has to begin sometime, so why not on the first of January, I suppose.

Still, I would do much better if the new year began on Sept. 1 or even June 1. Jan. 1 simply makes no sense because, as new beginnings go, it just doesn’t feel like one.

For me, the new year should start in the fall. Once you buy the new shoes and backpacks and lunchboxes, once you have refilled the school-supply shelf with college-ruled notebook paper and filled out the school’s emergency forms, what mother isn’t ready to put on a silly hat and celebrate with a noisemaker and a bottle of champagne?

It makes more sense to me to stay up until midnight on the night before school starts counting down the minutes until I’m emancipated — err, make that counting down the minutes until my children once again resume their intellectual pursuits.

Happy new year, indeed.

Alternatively, the new year could begin in June, when school lets out for the summer and you have survived yet another academic cycle. Simply making it through the month of May, with all the recitals and concerts and field trips is reason enough to celebrate.

At least in June there’s a sense of completion — the culmination of a particular phase and the start of something different. At least some kind of transition is involved.

As it is, the new year begins, but the only real change is that for one annoying month, whenever you write a check, you have to cross out the year past and rewrite the present one.

Between today and tomorrow, the weather will be about the same, the “do list” will be the same, the atmosphere will be the same.

Our family schedule won’t change, our routines — just recently established with the onset of basketball season — will resume once the holiday break is over.

No new teachers. No new shoes. No change of seasons. No change of venue.

Maybe this is why people started making New Year’s resolutions — to create a sense that the new year actually represents the chance for a new start, a fresh perspective — instead of just the day when you flip the page on the calendar.

My husband’s new year always seems like a fresh start, but for him there’s a reason. It’s his birthday. Come Jan. 1, he really does mark time and take stock of another year gone by and a new one beginning.

For the rest of us, it’s just another day of overeating in a kitchen with a fridge full of leftovers and a sticky floor that there’s no point in mopping until school starts again this week.

In fact, for most of us, a new year isn’t a day on the calendar; it’s usually a personal milestone.

It might be a year since we started a job or started running or started a blog. Or maybe it’s a year since we quit smoking or got sober or broke free from a destructive relationship.

Whatever it is, there’s a sense of victory when you realize that the seasons have come and gone — summer to spring or winter to fall — and you have kept a commitment, if to no one but yourself, or you have survived what just 12 months ago seemed like an insurmountable emotional obstacle.

A year since “the accident” or “the surgery” or “the CAT scan.” A year since a divorce. A year since a death. These are the anniversaries that bring with them the chance for new beginnings.

When the new year begins tomorrow, I’ll look ahead and anticipate the events on our family calendar that I expect will prompt us to look back one day and remember 2007. We have a high school graduation and a 13th birthday coming; one child will get a driver’s license, another will get her ears pierced.

Some of our plans are big — going off to college, for example. Some aren’t so big — painting the bathroom or taking a vacation. Just the stuff we all do from year to year.

Yet whenever I look at my life this way, I’m reminded of that line, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

If 2007 is anything like the 46 years I have lived up to now — make that 49 for Jim (and happy birthday) — God will have other plans for us as well.

His plans likely will require a fair amount of flexibility, a willingness to be spontaneous and generous, and an affirmation, once again, that His ways are not our ways.

Living as we do, always on the brink of the unknown, it helps to remember that plans can change and that change can be good and that life, if it is happy and full of love, is also full of heartache.

It helps to remember, too, that one without the other makes no sense.

Of course, we only plan ahead for the happy things. We don’t schedule the sad days, and why would we?

Instead, we hold on to the hope that each day might be a New Year’s Day, a new beginning, a chance to live faithfully and gratefully until tomorrow.

Happy new year.

Columnist Marybeth Hicks, a wife of 19 years and mother of four children, lives in the Midwest. She is the author of “The Perfect World Inside My Minivan — One Mom’s Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia,” a compilation of her columns. She uses her column to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families nationwide. Visit her Web site (www.mary bethhicks.com) or send e-mail to marybeth.hicks@comcast.net.

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