I went to a New Year's party and watched the ball drop on TV, but 2011 didn't officially begin until I got to work on Monday and started using my page-a-day box calendar.
Despite shunning CDs, newspapers, and the Yellow Pages in favor of their online equivalents, I'm not willing to look at a screen every time I need to know what day it is. I want the date served with a fun fact about Egyptian history or a thought-provoking quote from the Dalai Lama.
My enthusiasm is partly rooted in my page-a-day ritual. This year, for instance, I'm using Get Fuzzy 2011, and I love launching the morning with a comic strip. It's a gift I give myself, beginning the day not with e-mails or phone messages but with a joke. And on Mondays, I even get to extend the weekend by catching up on Saturday and Sunday's pages. (I never, ever look ahead. If you eat breakfast an hour after dinner, then you ruin the pleasure of both.)
I've also got emotional ties. For almost two decades, I gave my grandfather a Far Side calendar for Christmas, and now that he's gone, my own calendars remind me of him. This year, too, my dad has his own Get Fuzzy, and even though I know how very far apart we are, it helps to think we might be laughing at the same bright comic strip.
Of course, I could experience these things in other places. My dad and I could both read Get Fuzzy online, or I could have a word of the day sent to my e-mail and make that the first thing I see in the morning. But after years of tearing off Jeopardy! answers and famous quotes, I've realized that page-a-day calendars are something bigger than themselves.
They are a physical manifestation of time. They are time that you can hold in your hand, time whose dimensions you can measure and weigh and judge. With a box calendar, you can pinch the entire summer between your thumb and forefinger.
For some people, that might be depressing — the journey of a year reduced to pages in the trashcan. But for me, it's inspiring. How can days or weeks or even months seem overwhelming when I own an object that reminds me how manageable they are? Even before I reach today's new page, the calendar lets me tear off yesterday and make a clean start.
That tangible encounter with the passing year makes page-a-day calendars special, and that's why, as long as the Get Fuzzy people keep making them, I will buy one every December.
Mark Blankenship reviews movies, music, and TV at The Critical Condition.