Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Day for Imaginary Things: a Guest Post by Tangled Lou

"Abstract" by Patrick Kelly

...and here she is! I'm so excited. Much thanks to the fabulous and talented bloggers who organized Leap Blog Day, an exciting and befuddling event where your favorite bloggers show up in different places for a single day. Today's post is written by the talented (and anonymous) Tangled Lou, my very best imaginary friend. When you are done here, come and read me over at her blog, Periphery, where I am sharing my thoughts on why the Russians want big melons. Have a fabulous Leap Day!

Today is an imaginary day. It's a day for imaginary things. I am an imaginary person who lives in your computer and I have crashed this space in order to celebrate this imaginary day. Tara is one of my favorite imaginary friends and she has been kind enough to let me befoul her space for the day.

In the fourth grade, which was not imaginary but might as well have been, my teacher's preferred method of teaching was to hand out sheaves of purple-inked dittoed papers on various topics and then sit at her desk while we filled in the worksheets. Sometimes I can still smell them. It is the smell of burgeoning discontent, the first prickling of awareness that not all adults were competent, and a whiff of guilt for figuring these things out when I should really just be doing my ditto papers like a good girl.

My least favorites were the science papers. It wasn't the subject matter, it was that out of either laziness or apathy, the teacher never removed the answer key from the bottom of the paper before running them off.  A less industrious student would simply have to look at the bottom of the paper and circle all of the correct answers without ever learning a thing. I could not do this. It drove me nuts when my classmates did this. I would sit and resolutely not look at the answer key while I tried to concentrate on the little blurb of information from which the answers were drawn directly. It was from one of these blurry indigo worksheets that I first learned about the leap year. And it blew my little mind.

There comes a time in every girl's life when she has to face the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun once every 365 and a quarter days. What? There are just six extra hours a year, hanging out unaccounted for until we just lump them all together and call them an extra day? What? How can this be? You can't just save them up and spend them every four years, can you?! They are there, happening each year. These little dangly bits hanging off the ends of otherwise symmetrical days. We just sweep them aside for a few years and then screw with February. With February! Everybody knows that February is the longest month of the whole year even though it has the least number of days. So let's just give that dustbin of a month an extra day every now and then.

I remember asking my teacher why we couldn't just ignore that little extra bit of time every year and not confuse things by adding extra days here and there. Or if perhaps we could lengthen the days a bit on the whole and then all would be accounted for. She stared at me with bovine eyes and told me to go sit down. Clearly, cataclysmic things would happen if we did that. Things of which you do not speak to uppity 4th graders. Things so dreadful she had to excuse herself to go out for a smoke and leave the door open to the adjoining classroom so that the neighboring teacher would be available to scare us to death should there be any shenanigans. Thus it was at the tender age of nine, my mind was warped in regard to both authority and chronological time in the same few month stretch.

Leap Day is an imaginary day. It is a day made up of leftovers and bits and pieces that didn't fit into other days. We have a spare day this year somehow. How will you spend your extra time? Can I save mine and use it in the summer when it's less muddy and the kids are out of school? Can I dole it out an hour at a time on those days that I'm running just a little late? Can I add those random spare moments to extend the ones that are so perfect and full of presence and life that I need them to be just a few seconds longer? Can I store up those extra hours in a jar on the shelf and redeem them at the end of a loved one's life for just a few more days with them? Can I give mine away to people who might need them more than I do? Apparently it's OK to save up the extra time and stick a random day in February by some sort of international consensus, but not for individuals to save them up and use as they see fit. Communist jerks.

I guess that means I'll just have to pay attention to all of my moments and use them as well as I can. Here's what I think, though. Those little dangly bits at the end of each day? Mere seconds a day that are "off the clock". You can catch them when they happen. They happen in those few moments between sleep and waking from a delicious dream. They happen in the tiniest catch in your breath when you see your love's face. They happen in those rare seconds when everything slows down and you just are. They come like little tinkling bells in the wee hours of the morning. They come as a stroke of inspiration in the middle of something mundane. They come as a laugh to yourself, the brush of a hand, a bit of eye contact, the moment a project is finished, a secret smile. They slip into every day in such varied and personal and magical ways, if only you watch for them. You can collect them like fireflies and you don't even have to wait for once every four years in February to use them.

I think these are the cataclysmic things that my 4th grade teacher refused to tell me. It would alter the course of the universe if we all taught children how to live with contentment, grasping what is beautiful out of each day. Best to go out for a smoke, instead. It's not on the ditto sheets.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly that February is the longest month though it has the least number of days (even with this extra one).

    And I agree whole-and-a-half-heartedly that really noticing those magical moments and gathering them up is an effective innoculation against ending up like that fourth grade teacher.

  2. I remember ditto sheets- and the smell. Wow. The things you remember, Tangled Lou!
    And that paragraph about moments? I'm printing that out and putting it up where I can read it again and again.

  3. Wonderful.

    I have to say, that this "They happen in the tiniest catch in your breath when you see your love's face." was my favorite part of that paragraph. Sometimes I wonder if my parents are the only ones with a loving relationship, as in for real, and that if they are, is there hope for the rest of us..ok, for me. It feeds my hope to see others out there who still catch their breath and butterflies. (:

  4. I can't even pick a favourite part of this post to comment on as it is all so true! Wonderful:) Ditto sheets brought back some memories...and now I feel old... Why is it that February is so damn long, when there are fewer days? I agree with Jewels, I want to save that last paragraph:)

  5. This has been my favourite post to read for leap blog day and I would like to give you an imaginary award...
    there - that's it
    over there >

  6. Tangled Lou knows how to rock that imagery. I had forgotten about ditto sheets. It's funny, too. Fourth grade–the year of ditto sheets–I had two classmates that were twins born on Leap Day. I wondered for a long time how unusual that must be. All part of the magic. Maybe they weren't even real. One was called Spike.

  7. Thanks, folks, for all of your kind words. And thank you most of all Scarecrow (I mean Tara, it's Wizard of Oz reference that pops into my head when I least need it to) for letting me guest post for you. This was a whole lot of nerve-wracking fun! And those twins were most definitely either imaginary or extremely magical. Spike is the name of my favorite vampire. I wonder if it was him?


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