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In January

Family togetherness isn’t always a good thing. Especially in January, when the weather is so cold, so depressing, and so dreary that you find yourself staring out an ice-encrusted window trying to remember what the sun looked like.

The green grass has been bleached into the color of old broom straws, and the trees stick up like Amish whiskers on craggy, frozen hills.

This is the time of year when families have to be very careful. The loving people you spend your life with from February through December bear little resemblance to the creatures you share your home with in January.

When it is too cold to go anywhere or do anything outside, you suddenly realize that you will be trapped for yet another Saturday afternoon with humans who seem determined to stretch your levels of love and patience to the breaking point.

You long to get in your car and slide away to the nearest ditch, where the only whining you’ll hear comes from your spinning tires.

My husband, John, is — by nature — an optimistic and cheerful man. I find his outlook on life to be refreshing since I tend to see things a bit more pragmatically.

Spring, summer and fall: I enjoy his happy commentary.

In January, I want to smack the happy little grin he greets me with each morning and scream: “Have you looked OUTSIDE?? Do you realize that we will be spending another day INSIDE?? TOGETHER??”

Instead, I mutter: “Can we try to chisel the car doors open today so I can go to the grocery store?”

Always helpful and organized, John has decided to use a January morning to help me around the house. He decides his first project will be to take the big pile of odd socks that have been on top of the dryer since 1996 and “match them up.”

He lays out socks of all colors and lengths into tiny little rows according to ownership, texture and overall condition. The kitchen table is covered in neat rows, and he whistles the same three notes over and over as he works.

I want to walk away and let him discover on his own just how futile his efforts were. Every wife in America knows that once a sock has lost its mate, it will NEVER be a pair again.

But — Oh, no. I am stuck there, listening and becoming actively involved in John’s quest for sock order.

“Whose is this? I’ve never seen anybody in this house wear a purple sock.”

“Why are we keeping socks with tops as wide as my neck?”

“Do these two match well enough to go together, or do you think there is another sock in here with five lines of ribbing and a blue line across the toe?”

All the time he talks (and alternately whistles his three notes), he is making little sock balls and tossing them into the air, over and over and over.

I look at the man I love as much as my own life and have satisfying visions of a big, long, colorful sock rope, twisted tourniquet tight around his neck.

He continues to whistle as he works, stopping only long enough to flash a quick smile my way, and I am filled with guilt.

I know it’s just January that’s doing this to me. When February comes, I’ll be able to gaze at my family with tenderness and devotion. I’ll remember why I fell in love with my cheerful hubby, and I will feel grateful for all my blessings.

In the meantime, though, I’m trying hard to make it through the worst month of the year. And I sigh in surrender as I realize that God knows exactly what he was doing when he arranged for my birthday to be — in January.

Robin Garrison Leach

Robin Garrison Leach

Robin Garrison Leach is a freelance writer and columnist from Quincy, Illinois.”Robin Writes” is published in numerous Missouri and Illinois newspapers. Contact her at

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