It seems somewhat ironic to me that the 9th month of the year is considered the month of new beginnings. And yet for the caregivers of children everywhere, September is just that. The month of August, while still producing the dog days of summer, is also the month of a flurry of preparations for the coming September. New clothes, new shoes. In many cases, new furnishings for a dorm room or a new apartment. Stores unveil that annual glorious exhibit that can create a sense of relief for parents: the new school supply display.
I must confess that despite the fact that my children have long graduated college, every September I lose myself in the school supply section of whichever store I walk into. There’s something so seductive about the myriad of brilliantly illustrated blank notebooks, rows and rows of colored gel pens, jewel toned sticky notes, fountain pens, colored pencils. I can somehow always convince myself that I need a new addition to my already burgeoning desk. Yet they are so much more than tools of the trade. They are a story waiting to happen, a picture waiting for color.
September is the month of empty nests. It is the month when many of us let our little birds fly. Both times I brought my kids to start their college life, I hovered in their dorm room as long as I could. I made their beds up, unpacked their clothes, helped set up their desks until there was nothing left for me to do. Rather than mimicking my reluctance to leave they both looked at me expectantly, ready to move forward into their new adventure as excited dorm mates called them to come away. Both times I could feel the emptiness in our car as we drove away without them. It was always in September. It was a new beginning for both of us. Me learning how to live my own life again. They learning to find theirs.
In an interesting twist of fate, or then again perhaps not, I work at a college so that the schedule of school is still very much a part of my life despite that fact that my children are grown and in the workforce. It gives me the opportunity to meet many parents who are launching their own children from high school into the bigger world. It is so exciting for them but frightening too. How will their child cope? Will they make friends? Will they eat regular meals?
I don’t resent September for marking the years of my children’s growth as each one passed by. I don’t resent that one September I left my son at college and another four years later when I left my daughter. Those things are good and true. I would not want them to live their lives tied at home, afraid to move on, afraid to grow. That was not the life we taught them about. But even after they have left, September still feels like a new beginning. The summer air has gotten crisper. The days are growing shorter, the colors deepening, the fresh produce is harvested.There is a promise of a new beginning even as the earth is slowly preparing itself for a long winter’s nap.
When I leave for work now, I see the neighborhood children waiting for the school bus. They are all a year older then they were last year. There are still parents who wait with them, holding coffee cups, jackets and sweaters pulled over sweatpants, dogs on leashes, making sure their little ones board the bus safely. As I drive past them very slowly, I see the shadow of myself 10 years ago, 15 years ago. But each September is a new beginning and this one is no different. Unlike those good people waiting for the school bus, I no longer need to have a schedule that keeps dinner, homework and bath time regular for a child. I can enjoy the freedom of the whims of myself and my husband.
I welcomed this September. The summer had been long and hot with many trials but many joys as well. I was ready for a new beginning, for school to start and for the latest group of students with hope and anticipation and yes a little nervousness to start their classes. I was ready for the new supplies to grace my desk both at home and in my office. I feel the new year beginning and I am happy for another one. I know it’s a work night and I should really start dinner…but the harvest moon is rising so I’m headed out the door.