When I was in the first grade, I think it was, we learned a song about the fall. The words said,
“The wind blew out of the North one day,
and cried ‘September’s begun!’.
Then swiftly, mournfully sped away
To whisper that summer was done.”
Ever since that time, the coming of September has brought with it a sweet sadness as I get ready to say goodbye to the warmth and light of summer. When I was a young mother, raising my babies, the onset of September meant the tearing separation of our return to school, when I would have to rush away every morning and rush home at night to squeeze in a few precious hours with my babies before bed.
Ten years ago, of course, September was marked forever by the terrorist attacks that stole our innocence and introduced a new sense of wariness and loss. September 11 rolls around every year, and we shed new tears for the victims, the heroes, the family member left behind to grieve. Some of us mourn, too, the simple days before that one, when we somehow believed in our national invincibility.
As my children grew up, September became known as “move in” month, when my young adult kids would move out of my house and into campus housing. September became, for me, the “empty nest” month. It was a month for letting go, for waving goodbye, for staying up late to worry about smoke alarms and dining hall meals. September became my goodbye to motherhood month.
And three years ago, on September 15, 2008, my father lost his battle against melanoma. His death is the saddest and most difficult event in my largely charmed and hugely blessed life. I miss him every single day, multiple times each day. I hear his voice when I hammer a nail, fix chipped paint, mow the grass. I hear his laugh when I pour the wine or serve the pasta. I see his face when I look in the mirror at mine. I think of him with a special sweet pain on his birthday, on Christmas, and of course in September.
This year has been particularly poignant. This is the tenth anniversary of the terrible attacks in 2001. The whole country is mourning again. I have been in tears over and over as I have compulsively watched the footage of those terrible hours. I can’t stop crying, but I can’t look away.
Today my family gathered to remember my Dad and to mark the anniversary of his death. We shared food, and wine and stories, as we always do. I have dreamed of Dad every night for the past three nights. I felt him beside me as I washed dishes in his kitchen, or threw the trash in his garage. I remembered our last family gathering with Dad in our presence. We played music, we ate pasta, we touched his lips with red wine. We said, “I love you.” over and over again.
September comes every year. It brings memories of loss and of sorrow. It brings the end of warmth and the voice of the North wind.
But I am a teacher. For me, in spite of the sadness and melancholy of the month, September also brings new pencils, new clean notebooks and new school shoes. Most importantly, September brings a whole new group of children to show me yet again that life is about the future and that every day is a new and exciting day.