September Yin and Yang


Yeah, yeah – I know I’m a little late since it’s already past mid-September.  This is a post that really wanted to be written at the beginning of the month.  It begged me to be written.  But because it’s not my normal “wry humor” (and I say that wryly…), I said no. It’s been nagging me ever since.  It would not relent.  I gave up. Thanks for your indulgence for my indulgence.

September is a very special month to me.  I always feel big changes in the air.  I can smell the changes.  September is chance to start over.  Brand new beginnings.  Most good and welcomed.

But not all.

September always means a new school year.  As a child growing up in Pittsburgh in the late 50‘s/early 60’s, school didn’t start until after Labor Day.   I was always excited to go back to school.  I couldn’t wait to see my friends again.  And back to school meant a new dress and a new pair of shoes for the fist day.  Cha-ching!

Getting a new dress was a big deal for me.  Due to divorce, I lived in a single parent household – unusual for the time – and my mother worked as a nurse in a VA hospital.  There wasn’t much money for new clothes.

Or new anything else.

But for the first day of school, not only would I get a new dress and shoes, but a new notebook, new pencils and a new book bag too.  (FYI – bookbags were the old school version of the modern backpack…)  It was a huge treat to go shopping with my mother for all my new stuff.  She was always so very busy all the time with work and taking care of the house and doing laundry and grocery shopping and cooking – we never had time just to hang out together. We would ride a trolley to downtown Pittsburgh and shop at one of the big department stores.   We always ate lunch in a restaurant.  To me, it was a thrilling adventure!

I experienced the same type of excitement at the beginning of September years later with my own kids when they started school. We’d go down the list of “suggested supplies”, head out to the mall and shopped ’til we dropped!  We all had fun, but I’m pretty sure that I enjoyed it the most…

And September was always the beginning of another year of volunteering.  I worked part-time in IT, so I was usually able to make time each week to volunteer at the kid’s school.  Yeah – I was one of those moms.  I was in PTA, helped out in the classroom, worked in the bookstore and on after-prom, baked cookies, was a Football Mom and a Soccer Mom.  All through their grade school, middle school and high school years, I volunteered.  And I loved every minute of it.

Now, every September when I feel the chill starting in the air and hear the sound of the September “critters” in the morning and see the leaves starting to put on their Fall regalia, my head and heart flood with the memories those happy new beginnings.  But September also reminds me that new beginnings can have their challenges.

My children have long been out of school.  The high school PTA and Football Moms are now run by people whose children were tiny babies back when I was involved.  September reminds me that every season comes to an end.  That very happy time in my life is over. Oh, I’ve adjusted to the empty nest and have reinvented myself several times over, and stay very busy and active.  I even started a blog!  But so far nothing has equaled the joy I had in parenting my kids when they were growing up.  September reminds me, sometimes cruelly, that time marches on.  Relentlessly.

Also, on a September day in 1965, my dear, sweet mother who worked so very hard to support my sister and I, died suddenly from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer.  She was two weeks shy of her 47th birthday.  So young…  I had just started 7th grade.  After the funeral, I was shipped off to a new city in a new state to live with my father who I had barely seen since he moved away when I was six, and his new wife who I’d never met.  I would never see the house I grew up in or any of my grade school or neighborhood friends again.

The smells and sounds and “feeling” of September remind me of new beginnings. But they also remind me that sometimes a new beginning isn’t welcome.   But it comes anyway.

I sigh and remember and mostly smile.

10 thoughts on “September Yin and Yang

  1. “But so far nothing has equaled the joy I had in parenting my kids when they were growing up.” Oh, I agree, I agree. (Despite blog, fancy post-motherhood career and like that.) As for wry, don’t even try. It’s too hard to be wry about the fact that if you’ve done the parenting job you enjoyed so much really well, your kids will pay it forward. As they should. And you’re essentially off their screen. Time is indeed relentless.

    I’m so sorry you lost your mother so young. (In the month and year of my second marriage, the one in which there were children.)

    Well, enough with sad September thoughts. You’re also right to sigh, remember, and mostly smile.


    • Isn’t it ironic that you love your kids to much that you want to perfectly equip them to live independently without you? I hate it when that happens… 🙂 It makes me so sad to see parents creating co-dependent relationships with their kids because the parents need their kids to need them so desperately.

      Thank you for you kind words. I don’t believe in dwelling on sad events of the past – I much prefer to stay in hope of the present. But somehow, the start of September always takes me back…


  2. What a lovely story. I love the part about shopping with your Mother & the school supplies. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY in the 1940’s/50’s. I absolutely loved the new black notebook, the new pencil case, the brown paper book covers.
    And the smell of the schoolbooks they gave us, whether old or new. You wrote this so beautifully – loved it!


    • Thank you Marilyn! It’s so interesting that we got excited about such simple things. I understand and am glad that things move forward and progress, but it seems we’ve lost something in the process. I’m glad that I experienced the uncomplicated joy of a time that seemed vastly simpler!


  3. I grew up in Pittsburgh, as well! And I often say that some of my best years were when the children were in elementary school and I was so involved as a volunteer in their school. Brownie leader, Girl Scout leader, tutor… all those things gave me such pleasure. Pleasure, I didn’t fully realize at the time.

    I don’t remember getting a book bag. Now I’m feeling deprived!


    • Have you ever seen “Pittsburgh Dad” on YouTube? Soooooo Pittsburgh and very cute! What on earth did you carry your stuff too and from school IreneC if you didn’t have a book bag? Seriously, they were like the messenger bags that are so popular today except they were like vinyl and plaid cloth and had buckles to close the flaps. Ah – the days before everything for kids had trademarked images on them!


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