September has always been a bittersweet month for me. As a lifelong participant in the American nine month education cycle as well as being the child of two public school educators, the month was not just a cue for “back to school” but the end of connected family time.
The state’s instructional calendar was the master of the Phelps family universe. The day after Labor Day our tribe of seven would scatter in different directions interrupted only by the occasional bump up against one another over an evening meal until our paths would “officially” recross in December. I recall the year my next eldest sister left for college as a particularly rough disconnection of the clan; I bitterly mourned my new role as an only child, and I started ninth grade already counting down the days until Christmas when I could see my siblings again.
A tomboy in most ways, the return to stuffy classrooms, sitting for long periods, and standing in line (always between Andy Pinnock and Sam Peterson) was deflating. Direct instruction being anesthesia to an experiential learner, my preferred version of silent reading time was lying under a tree with a favorite book, and no science lab could compete with wading up a cold creek until my ankles were numb. Fortunately, there were those incredibly juicy teachers who spoke my language – Nancy Figueth, Chuck Lockridge, Bruce Capp, Don Vondracek, Dick Kromminga – all whom to this day inspire the more inquisitive learner in me. I didn’t hate school, I just wasn’t always clear how I fit into the system.
Sweetly too, September is my birth month, and I loved then (as I do now) having a party. My mother would pull out all the stops for our birthdays, and the arrival of autumn signaled an entire day where I was the queen. Dinner was my chosen menu, the guests were my favorite people, and the gifts were usually the new school clothes I had already waited three weeks beyond the official first day to vainly wear in hopes that this year’s garments would magically elevate my social position among peers. It was foolish optimism yet after all these years, I am still most charmed by fall fashion.
Following in my parent’s footsteps, I became a teacher and gave my children the gift of a childhood similar to my own. Even through I’ve made other career stops in my life, I always think of the year’s beginning as September. It’s the month to savor what we experienced in the brightness of summer through autumn’s softer light. It’s when we can take deep cleansing breaths and focus on the tasks ahead. It’s a time for everyone, no matter their station, to go “back to school” and do what the world is calling them to do – to Be. It’s also a season to celebrate and relax into yourself – without trying too hard, or getting hung up on appearances or the company you keep.
How will you start your September year?
Stop back by my blog on Thursday!