"Pale January lay in its cradle day by day
Dead or living, hard to say."
- Alfred Austin
January, someone once wrote, is the check we pay for Christmas.
It is a cold month, a blank month, a month with few fans.
"Tell me one good thing about January," a co-worker grumbled.
"No problem," I said cheerfully, "I'll give you 10."
1. Football games count: In the NFL playoffs, the loser goes home. College bowl games in January matter. Don't believe me? Ask UGA coach Mark Richt.
2. Good sleeping weather: The colder it gets outside, the better it feels burrowed under a thick quilt. And there's usually more darkness in January, which gives you more legitimate sleeping time.
3. No mowing: In fact, January has very little yard work, tree-pruning or hedge-clipping. Most outdoor maintenance is excused for the month.
4. No visitors, and little visiting: That was last month. January is usually a good time to stay home, sleep in your own beds and maybe follow up those holiday connections by phone.
5. Affordable holidays: Christmas is bankruptcy with a red-and-green bow. Thanksgiving is the year's most expensive luncheon. Halloween, Valentine's, Easter, etc., all can hit your pocketbook.
But January offers Dr. King's birthday and a chance of reflection. New Year's Day - Jan. 1 - is usually a sober affair. It's that Dec. 31 New Year's Eve that does the damage.
6. Stores aren't crowded: January shoppers are in no hurry, under no pressure, feeling no urgency. There are parking spaces near the door.
7. It's easy to read: The first month is a good one to catch up on all those magazines you didn't have time for last fall. I have a Sporting News that speculates the Colts could go all the way and Southern Cal appears unbeatable.
8. Fireplaces: If there were ever a month that justified a roaring fire in the hearth, it's this one. There's a certain human satisfaction with flame and warmth that goes back to our days in caves.
9. Homemade soup and chili: Not only good for an afternoon, but big batches make tasty leftovers that will last for a week.
10. New Year's resolutions are still in play: Not all of them, perhaps, but I'm still keeping the one that says: "Be optimistic." And if I keep it through January, the rest of the year should be a snap.