September blesses us with autumn colors–vibrant reds, oranges, earthy browns- that energize and elevate us, as long as we try to think of autumn as just a different kind of beginning, not really an ending.
All my life September has meant the start of school. First as a student and then as a teacher, the sadness of the end of summer was mollified by the excitement of the beginning of a new year. Ah, the fun of it all. Notebooks, packs of lined paper, Bic pens, No. 2 pencils, text books filled with all kinds of wonderful information.
I particularly loved September as a teacher. All those new faces, all that potential, all that fun and laughter and those serious classroom discussions, all that writing, all that reading, all those videos and recordings and computer searches. Everything fresh and new.
Now as a retired teacher I look at September in a different way. I am entering my third year of retirement and the sadness and emptiness is just starting to soften a little. I can go into Staples or Target and pass those aisles of school supplies with just a hint of sadness. I still want to buy everything. I go into Michael’s and see displays for teachers of bulletin board borders with their patterns of apples and textbooks and pencils curving around the sides, posters to inspire the most reluctant students, attendance logs and storage containers. I still want it all. I still long to pack up my tote bags with classroom supplies, create colorful bulletin boards, decorate the walls of my room with informational posters, arrange desks and bookshelves, and stand at the door expectantly, waiting to see new faces and hear laughter in the hallways, the sound of young voices eager to be with their friends again.
I know retirees who are happy to finally go to the Cape in September with its lower rates and fewer crowds, walk the beaches, eat seafood, take the ferry to Nantucket, breathe in the cooler fall air, and relish the peace.
Not so much for me. Not that I don’t love the Cape, and the first year my husband and I were both retired we spent a long weekend on the Cape in September. But Hyannis was a little too quiet, too boring. The sun still had a little warmth, but not enough to lie in the sun smothered in sunscreen and listen to the waves and the gulls, radios, and indistinguishable voices. In fact, it was downright lonely.
Twenty-five years ago September came with excitement and nervousness for my family. We had just moved into our new house in a new school district. Our daughters were in the sixth and ninth grades. The morning of the first day of school I watched doors open, cars move, the exodus from homes begin, and children of all ages walk to the end of the road to get the school bus. It was almost magical. A few weeks ago on the first day of school, I watched the older kids leave about 7 a.m. and at 8:45 the younger ones began their slow walk to the end of the street accompanied by a few mothers and dads. The parents were carrying their cameras and the photos began. One dad stood at the end of the road long after his child was on the bus still taking pictures as the bus drove his child away from his protective arms. Mothers cried, then slowly walked back to their empty houses.
Now it’s not until October that I begin to enjoy the colors of the leaves, the cool air, and the crops of apples and pumpkins and squash. The first week of September is the hardest when there are beginnings for children and parents as school begins, when other teachers enter their classrooms with enthusiasm, and I watch from my window as the children begin a new school year. Three years into retirement I still feel the loss. I am wondering how many years it will take me before I truly feel relaxed and happy that I am not heading off to school myself, and instead I am looking forward to the beaches of the Cape. September blues linger for me still.