For such a short month, February has a lot going on. Groundhog Day was the first we noticed the month had arrived, but I don’t think the possibility of six more weeks of winter scared anyone — if winter even exists anymore.
Feb. 7 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, and events are planned all year in celebration. I plan to go back and pick up some of his novels that I’ve never gotten around to.
Sunday was the 203rd anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and of Charles Darwin. Catch up, Dickens!
George Washington was born in February, of course, and all sorts of other famous people: novelist James Joyce, who wrote Ulysses, another book I plan to take off the shelf (after I buy a forklift and an industrial-strength coffee pot); Aaron Burr, our only vice president to kill a man in a duel; Charles Lindbergh, the 67th person to fly across the Atlantic; Nicolaus Copernicus, who founded modern astronomy with his theory that the sun was the center of our (hint, hint) solar system; and supermodel Cindy Crawford, who, after retiring from the catwalk, exemplified American know-how by learning to build furniture.
February has its other highlights. Mardi Gras will be on Feb. 21. That is followed by Lent after the excesses of not only Fat Tuesday but also Valentine’s Day. We remember Valentine’s Day for a gangland massacre in Chicago in 1929. It has massacred many a man since, though with diamonds, not bullets. Chocolate is a safer weapon.
Let’s not forget the Super Bowl, which has edged forward over the years. It was Feb. 5, but when it began in 1967 — and wasn’t even called the Super Bowl yet — it was played Jan. 15. At this rate, we soon will be tuning in to the game during baseball spring training.
February is special, of course, because it is the gatekeeper of the calendar. Roughly every four years, the month gets an extra day to keep the Gregorian calendar straight. Because 2012 is divisible by 4 but not by 100, it is a leap year, and Feb. 29 will be leap day. (Nature’s rules are complicated; you can look them up.)
I always remember February as the month I joined the Navy. “It’s not just a job,” they liked to say, “it’s an adventure.” They put a bunch of us up one night in a scary old hotel in the low-rent district of Nashville, Tenn. A guy off the street went from room to room with a gun, holding up the young recruits. The next day, worse for wear and lighter of wallets, we flew off to boot camp. The adventure had begun.
Feb. 14 tugs at our family’s hearts for more reasons than Valentine’s Day. Thirteen years ago on that day, our granddaughter Karson was born. Our little girl will become a teenager this week. She thinks she’s been ready for that for years, but we have our worries. You see, we still remember when her mother was 13.