Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Case for Calkins Day

In Bryony, Melissa encounters an Irish vampire, Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, a ruthless dictator who relies on limericks to build up or tear down, depending if the limerick is about him or his enemy.

Ed is convinced that his February 13 birthday will one day be celebrated as a national holiday, initiating a three-day celebration, since it falls smack between Lincoln’s birthday and Valentine’s Day.

I think an official Calkins Day celebration is an excellent idea, and if Ed ever produces the mythical petition to suggest it, I’ll be one of the first to sign it. Here’s why: laughter, imagination and generosity.

Laughter: The benefits of a single smile last for an entire year, at least according to a paper published several years ago in the British Medical Journal. It said that happiness is contagious and that people pass on their good cheer even to total strangers. Such transferred happiness is good for up to a year.

Several years ago at Christmastime, the Herald News asked me to find and interview local people who illustrate that study. Naturally, Ed Calkins was one of them. He not only consistently hosts a Calkins Day Parade on his Feb. 13 birthday (where Ed rides a pallet jack and tosses candy to the bleary-eyed adults who are rolling newspapers), he organizes occasional pallet jack races and newspaper bagging contests.

“It’s true that I’m a ham,” Calkins had said. “But I also believe that good cheer is contagious. Delivering newspapers is a tough job and this helps keep morale up.”

Imagination: My four year old grandson believes he is a super hero, and prefers eating only green foods, so my daughter keeps a ready stock of green food coloring when he must eat foods (such as oatmeal) that lack that natural pigment. My three year old grandson, by turns, is a monster or a bear.

Somehow, as we grow past childhood, we stop allowing ourselves to dwell in a world of our own making, but where is the rule that says we must? If dubbing oneself a ruthless dictator, soliciting writers to create a newsletter, and spreading the spirit of Christmas makes another day bearable, why not?

Ah, yes, the Christmas season. Here’s how I led that laughter story.

Looking suspiciously like the jolly old elf himself, the grey-bearded, bespectacled Ed Calkins performs his managerial duties at a Rockdale early morning news agency while donned in a red Santa Claus cap.

But his resemblance to St. Nick doesn’t end there. Each morning, he distributes candy canes to the newspapers carriers and makes certain that his current “Queen of Christmas” (a female newspaper carrier who receives the title by popular vote) gets the age and sex of each of the carriers’ children under age 12 so Calkins can buy each an appropriate gift.

And that, dear reader, is the third reason why we should celebrate Calkins Day: Ed’s generosity. That doesn’t end with the packing away of the reindeer hats. Calkins annually cooks an entire steak dinner for his carriers (He bestows nicknames on them, too, such as “Viking Warrior” and “Goddess”). His wife makes the garlic bread for the annual steak dinner Ed grills, right in the parking lot of the distribution center. And, yes, Ed buys the steaks.

Would the fictional, ruthless Ed Calkins be dismayed at being remembered in such a positive way? Ed himself, in the earlier interview with him, Twenty Questions with Ed Calkins, said, “The ruthless dictator would say, ‘Look, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’ King Midas is much better off than King Midas the Second, even though he was portrayed in a bad light, because nobody remembers King Midas the Second.”

Case rested.

Read more about Ed Calkins, including his interview, at http://www.bryonyseries.com/. Click on the link, The Steward of Tara.”

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