TODAY, THE LAST Saturday of the year, is one of my favorite days. It is low-expectation Saturday, a day when nobody is supposed to get much done around the house.
Today's slack domestic pace is a reaction to the heavy workload of previous Saturdays. In most homes, the Saturdays leading up to this one were devoted to frenzied attempts to get the house ready for the holidays. Basements were cleaned, walls were painted, rooms were decorated. All these tasks had to be completed before "the start of the holiday season," a time when your home is invaded by friends, partygoers and relatives.
The deadline for all those spit-and-polish projects has passed. By now you have either beautified your living space or have declared certain rooms disasters and closed their doors. Today there should be no spitting and no polishing.
Another reason I am fond of today is that it is not one of those "fetching" Saturdays. Those Saturdays, too, are behind us. Last Saturday, for instance, I was in full-frenzied fetch. By 11 in the morning I had fought my way to four stores to buy Christmas presents. I wasn't alone. To get the goods, I had to elbow my way through crowds of similarly agitated shoppers.
As for today, I hope to sleep until noon and wear my slippers and bathrobe all day. I can only hope that today, legions of area residents will abide by the spirit of low-expectation Saturday and wear their slippers and bathrobes most of the day.
Today isn't a sideline Saturday, and that is another plus. A sideline Saturday is a day spent ferrying your kids to sporting events, then watching them compete. Parents get a respite today because the schools are closed for Christmas vacations. When the schools close, so do most of the weekend recreation leagues for kids. Anyone who has ever pried himself out of bed to get a kid to an 8: 30 Saturday morning basketball game, or has spent hours watching an all-day wrestling match, cherishes a day with no sporting obligations.
As much as I like a free day, though, I know that a Saturday with nothing to do can be dangerous. Once you have become XTC accustomed to spending your Saturdays fetching, ferrying and fixing, you discover that doing nothing can make you restless.
You might be tempted to fill up your free time by organizing a family outing, a day trip to a museum or a historic site. Usually about halfway through such an outing, you are reminded that this family-togetherness thing is overrated. You recall that often the family that travels together on Saturday can't wait to get away from each other on Sunday.
Another danger of an idle Saturday is that it has been known to father the most troublesome of all household projects, the kind you think up yourself. You glance at the kitchen calendar and see no sign of impending obligations and you end up telling yourself, "Today looks like a good day to fix that stuck door in the kid's bedroom."
That is what I told myself on the last Saturday of last year. Fixing the door involved several trips to distant stores, buying a new door that ended up being stored in a closet, and spending most of the day sawing and drilling. Putting in a new door turned out to be more trouble than wrestling with the old one. Eventually I got the old door to open and close. But this task involved turning the old door upside down and changing the direction it opened. Moreover, the doorknob, which once was at waist-level, was moved up a foot or two to chest-level.
I told the kid that having a chest-high doorknob gave his bedroom door a unique architectural feature. The kid bought my sales pitch, but my wife seemed less than thrilled with the results of my labor.
Today I will not listen to the demons who are urging me to rearrange the household plumbing lines. I will try to remain idle, to do nothing, to put my feet up and pay fitting tribute to the last Saturday of year, a day devoted to doing nothing.
Pub Date: 12/27/97