With Christmas Day behind us, we’re entering what an old friend of mine used to call the “breather’’ week.
The friend, for years a radio guy in Pierre, termed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day a breather, meaning that the Christmas rush had ended and the post-New Year looking to the future hadn’t started. This week, he said, was an opportunity to catch our breaths, relax a little, mellow out as the 60s folk singer Donovan might have said.
Here’s a story that radio friend told me about breather week. If I remember it correctly – and I’m pretty sure I still have the basics down – he used to host a modest party during the week for some of his clients and friends. It was a show of appreciation for their relationships with him the past year. He called it a Breather. Well, one year he wanted to advertise something unrelated in the local paper. When he submitted the copy to the ad manager, he wrote across the bottom something like, “Annual Breather Tuesday evening (or whenever). Be sure to come, and bring your spouse.’’ Somehow that line made it into the published ad. My friend had an extremely well-attended party.
Such a mix-up would have freaked out a lot of people. My friend shrugged and bought a few more snacks and drinks. I guess he figured that maybe he wasn’t going to be as relaxed as he’d intended, but a good number of his friends and clients would be.
In my own newspaper days, I had mixed feelings about this week between Christmas and New Year. I usually worked the week. Many people were taking some days off, so the newsroom was short-staffed. That created some pressure for the reporters on duty to produce a little extra each day. I guess that was stressful, but we managed. Besides, the few reporters who were on duty felt rather a kinship, a Band of Brothers sort of thing — we’re in this together and all.
And even with the need to produce, the atmosphere was relaxed. It was a bit of a breather in that sense. There were few government meetings to cover. Few organizations or individuals planned major announcements during the week, figuring many readers and listeners would be distracted with holiday travel, children home from school, family visiting and whatnot.
OK, there was that year when Gov. Bill Janklow called a special session of the Legislature a few days after Christmas to deal with his proposal to sell the state cement plant. I think he announced his intentions on Christmas Eve. I know one of his key staff members learned of the news on holiday in Wisconsin and had to beat it back to South Dakota the next day. There was little time for catching a breath that year.
Most years, though, this week we’re entering offers at least a bit of time to take a deep breath and take stock of lives and fortunes. I don’t consider that the same as looking ahead at the New Year to make long-range plans or map out strategies for success or even resolve to shed a few pounds, walk a little more, talk a little less, laugh more often and shout less often. That sort of stuff can wait until next week.
This week, I think, is a time to sit quietly and consider the previous year. It isn’t the same as Thanksgiving Day, when we are encouraged to enumerate things for which we are grateful. It’s just a time to be still and know that, if we’re like the rest of humanity, we’ve had blessing and grief, a fair amount of both, in the previous 12 months.
I’ve been mostly fortunate. Far as I know, I’m healthy and so is my family. I haven’t seen some of them for months and months. But that’s because we’re being careful during the pandemic, not because they are gone. That’s a blessing. Too many people aren’t able to say that this year, and that’s terribly sad.
I hope I can really make time to take a breath every day this week, and to appreciate that I can do that.