As we sit perched on this last day of August, it’s understandable to feel melancholy.
August is sunscreen and sweet corn, cabins and county fairs, picnics and music in the park. September is school and a step closer to you-know-what. As if we needed a reminder, many of us pulled out sweaters early last week.
But this year’s bittersweet adieu to the last full month of summer has been softened by a remarkable phenomenon.
Did you notice it on your calendar? Or maybe, like me, you were alerted in an e-mail blast about this unique August 2014, featuring five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays? Five three-day weekends, instead of four.
This mood-boosting gift of extra time occurs just once in 823 years!
Or, a little more frequently. Like, it last happened in March 2013. Dang those fact-checkers.
Talk about an ice bucket thrown on the works.
Listen, I love snopes.com. The myth-busting website is a welcome antidote to an inbox filled with hysteria and creepy warnings of exploding tea bags, mutant animals in your KFC sandwich and thieves stealing your kidneys and leaving you, drugged, in a bathtub. (Fiction, fiction and really fiction.)
Apparently, the 823-year extra-weekend cycle also is bunk.
Any 31-day month that begins on a Friday will have five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. All right, all right.
I was impressed, however, with my ability to pick ’em. This myth, called “money bags” due to the financial rewards attached to this rare (not) calendar occurrence, ranks 14th on Snopes’ list of the 25 hottest urban legends, just under “Instant Noodle Warning.”
Turns out eating ramen won’t leave a thick waxy buildup in your stomach. But you will be hungry in two hours.
The money bags myth started circulating in 2010, with similar claims being forwarded around social networking sites since. Those who share the news of this extraordinary event, legend goes, will be rewarded with money arriving within four days.
I didn’t fall for that part. But I did start thinking about why I was so bummed that the extra weekend isn’t all that rare. It’s not that I got suckered. It’s more like this:
We are experiencing particular turmoil of late. Street riots in Missouri, war atrocities, earthquakes. We need to stay planted in that world, to reach out to others in pain and do what we can to fix what we can.
I think small joys feel bigger at troubling times such as this.
So, I’m inviting you to join my challenge, which is to ignore the facts momentarily and celebrate small with me.
Every 823 years. Every year or two. Who cares? It’s still cool.
We still got an extra weekend.
We got an extra Sunday of Classic Peanuts on the funnies pages.
An extra Sunday crossword. An extra paycheck.
We got another opportunity to explore a town outside the city limits. An extra night of camping. Of fishing and boating.
An extra cup of coffee on the porch with our favorite magazines.
An extra day to do school supply shopping.
An extra day to plan, then put off, that home project. An extra free, live concert at Minneapolis’ Lake Harriet.
An extra morning at the park with the grandkids. An extra Saturday afternoon nap after the grandkids went home.
Another sleepover. Another chance to sleep in.
One extra weekend to get us mentally closer to accepting that fall is coming.
So, about those money bags. There is a “money bag” in Chinese feng shui, Snopes explains. It has nothing to do with forwarded e-mails or the number five. It’s an actual cloth bag carried by the Happiness Buddha.
If you’d like to spend this final, lovely August day being creative, you can make your own money bag. Place nine coins into the square of a cloth (preferably red), then tie it with a colored ribbon. Place it on or near a spot in your home where money is received or generated.
If your paycheck comes by mail, for example, place it where you put incoming letters and packages. If your money comes via computer notification of a deposit to an online account, put it near your hard drive.
Even better, put those coins in your pocket and enjoy this bonus day with a walk to the nearest lemonade stand.