By Andy Young
Memorial Day weekend portends the arrival of hordes of visitors that are considered by many to be the lifeblood of our state’s economy. But even for Mainers with no direct connection to the tourism industry, the first day of this month provides an even greater excuse for celebration.
May Day was originally intended, at least in the northern hemisphere, as justification for festivals heralding the onset of spring, and the more pleasant weather that typically accompanies it. But for me May 1 is much more than that. It’s the day on which I can take the slender, miniature four-sided wooden plank (the one with “January” painted on one of its sides, “February,” on another, “March” on the third face, and “April” on the other) that serves as one-third of the base of my family’s perpetual calendar and move it all the way to the back of the line.
The last thing I do before retiring each night is change the date on that brilliantly simple, simply brilliant six-piece contraption. An utterly uncomplicated yet ingenious device I picked up for under $10 Canadian dollars on a trip to Nova Scotia some years ago, it consists of a small, decorative wooden frame (mine has a frog painted atop it), three tiny, thin, four-sided wooden bars, and two cubes that sit atop them. One of the six-sided blocks features one of the numbers from zero through five on each of its faces; the other’s sides sport zero through two and seven thru nine.
But what about the six? Ahhh, here’s where the ingenuity comes in! The face of the block bearing the numeral 9, when rotated 180 degrees, clearly displays the digit which, at first glance, seems to be missing from the collection.
I liked my fully functioning froggie calendar so much that, on a subsequent trip to New Brunswick, I purchased a second such item, one with a butterfly as its backdrop. It cost even fewer Canadian dollars than my frog-themed calendar had! I immediately put it to work as the official date-proclaimer on my desk at school.
Manipulating the blocks correctly allows the calendar’s operator to always display the correct date. As for the month, well, that’s for the trio of small pieces of lumber to announce. Each has sides on which are printed the names of four months; in addition to the one referenced earlier, the second bar’s four sides bear the words “May,” “June,” “July,” and “August,” while the third is emblazoned with the names of the final quartet of months.
It’s hard to find fault with this simple yet innovative device. Its only real drawback: its user can’t write down appointments on it, as is the case with more traditional, two-dimensional paper calendars. It’s also incumbent upon the owner to remember the year himself or herself, since no rational person should want their simple calendar’s piece count to jump from six to 10.
Operating a perpetual calendar like mine can be challenging for the dull-witted, or for those who are easily frustrated, like the student who tried numerous times, without success, to make the one on my desk read “October 69.” Too bad for him the six and the nine are in reality the very same block.
Few tangible but inanimate objects give me as much pleasure as my perpetual calendar does. That frog is usually the last thing I see before closing my eyes each night, and the butterfly, which served ably at school, will do so again once current COVID-related restrictions on objects that could conceivably spread disease through being touched by coronavirus-tainted hands have been relaxed. <