Averyell A. Kessler
According to a beautiful old song, September is a time when “the days dwindle down to a precious few.” I think about it every year as August trudges to a steamy close and fall peaks above the horizon. In my day, we returned to school in September, usually on the Monday after Labor Day. The heat was vicious, and we had no AC. Nevertheless, the doors of every JPS school swung open for the beginning of an exciting, angst laden and sweat drenched new school year. For me, it was the equivalent of New Year’s Eve, and I still feel it.
At my house, things got serious after the fourth of July. I considered it the halfway mark of summer. Boredom was creeping in. Poison ivy, mosquito bites, and sunburn were taking a toll, but I refused to give up the joy of no school, sleeping late, swimming pool days, as well as the absence of unintelligible math problems, spelling words, and the ever-present threat of a pop test. No longer would I watch the antics of Heckle and Jeckle during the school week, and I’d miss Alfalfa and Darla flirting on early morning tv. Also, I wondered what horrors the cafeteria folks were dreaming up instead of a bowl of mama’s yummy chicken noodle soup. I had already survived the great liver and gravy debacle, as well as heaps of slimy green spinach, but who knows what evil lurked in the heart of the lunchroom manager!
“How many more days?” I asked my mother. It was a repeat question.
“About six weeks,” she’d reply. “It’s not even August yet. You have plenty of time.”
But the days were dwindling and I knew it. Endless summer was almost gone, and precious few days remained. Soon we’d be shopping for school supplies, new shoes, and a fluffy petticoat that would keep its shape. My swimsuit would be packed away, also my sandals, shorts, and our blow-up swimming pool. I’d walk into Power school on a blistering Monday morning, still not knowing if I’d spend the year under the tutelage of Miss Cartwright or Miss Parnell or who else would be in my classroom. Thanks to Mori’s on Capital Street, I had a new leatherette three ring notebook (turquoise) with my name stamped on the cover in bright gold letters. Also, rumors spread that a cute new boy had moved into Belhaven, and we were all waiting to see if he had a crew cut.
Down deep in my childhood thoughts, I knew another year had passed and I wouldn’t be going back to Miss William’s class. I didn’t mind, not yet, but things were moving along faster than I’d anticipated. Soon I’d leave Power School for Bailey on the hill. High school had not yet entered my imagination. My age now consisted of two numerals, instead of one, my baby dolls had been packed up and put in storage. The clamp-on roller skates I adored didn’t fit anymore, even though I’d probably logged over 100 miles of scrabbling across the sidewalk behind our house. I could read anything I wanted, except Lolita, an enticing book I found hidden beneath my mother’s nightstand. Oh, well.
Now, as a grown-up child, I can’t forget the potent words of lovely, mournful September Song. “The days dwindle down to a precious few.” It was one of my grandfather’s favorites and I still hear him singing it in his scratchy, monotone voice. Somehow, those precious few days pass more quickly than shuffling cards or a blazing fastball in the ninth inning. They are ice melting on a hot griddle, the brief life of a butterfly, a graceful lily blooming for a single day.
Still there is good news. September Song is not solemn requiem for the passage of time; it’s an anthem to life. The lyrics include a never fail remedy for dwindling days; a simple mending that I often overlook. “One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.”
So true. Waiting is a game I don’t have time to play. None of us do. So, I won’t. I’ll have a second glass of wine at supper and buy a large Snickers bar at the grocery store. I’ll watch my grands perform in an emerging lower school band even if it’s a bit off key and I’m so tired I can’t keep my eyes open. I’ll take a good look at my life and embroider the things I want to remember then toss the bad things into a raging trash barrel. I’ll spend less time trying to figure everything out because life is not a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and nothing fits together perfectly. Never will. I’ll stop heeding the advice of people who think they know best and listen to my own heart instead. I’ll pray more often, write more often, and reread The Great Gatsby again as well as the latest novel du jour. I’ll not overlook the sudden appearance of a rainbow or ignore a golden pink sunset, because both disappear in an instant. That goes for you too, cardinals fluttering in my backyard birdbath. I’ll remind myself of who loves me, as well as who I love and tell them so. Finally, there’s a turquoise leatherette notebook out there somewhere and I intend to find it.
*Willie Nelson has a beautiful version of September Song, as well as a youthful Frank Sinatra and the honey-voiced Ella Fitzgerald.