The calendar turn into September has not always seemed significant. As I spent years in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., letting my profession get the better of me, I did not register any changes that could be tied to a new season. The subway was still hot and crowded, I was still working more often than not, and my emotional barometer was still stuck on tired and stressed.
Now that I have left behind the Big Law Firm life and returned to Maine, things are different. September ushers in crisp air, waning daylight, and an impulse for apple consumption. What’s more, the mere introduction of the month has made me feel very emotional.
It’s not like I need Taylor Swift to pen some lyrics about a recent heartbreak or a guy who won’t take the hint that we’re broken up and enough already. My most recent heartbreak was in the last century. And I’m relatively confident that if I tell my husband we’re so over, I will have opened a can of worms that even country music can’t handle, never mind that it’s of the crossover variety.
This September has caused me to feel sentimental, excited, and nervous.
This September means that it’s time for my daughter to go back to school. A school where she will navigate educational expectations and social pressures without my hand to steady her. A school where she will identify and work to meet the milestones that will set her up for success next year. A school where her yearbook will be tied to a pine cone.
This September, my daughter is 4. Her school is a preschool. A circle is marked off on the rug in black tape.
I know. It’s huge and very intense. It’s a wonder we can reach the final page of “Love, Ruby Valentine” every night.
My daughter enters this September with worries surrounding the squeezable yogurt I seem eager to pack for her lunch and her teething brother’s predilection for gnawing her Barbies. I’m confronting this September by trying to get a grip on my competing emotions.
I have a hard time believing that summer is over. No more long nights of soft light dimming into a gentle sunset. No more mornings spent applying sunscreen. No more rationalizing that it’s an appropriate time for ice cream simply because we are awake.
Yet the descent into fall brings us back to a familiar pattern that feels reassuring. A clockwork of busy mornings, strategic drop-offs, distracting workdays, and the sprints to pick-up. The patchwork quilt of summer child-care coverage is replaced by the steady drumbeat of a school-year schedule.
But disaster lurks. What if my daughter isn’t good about getting back on the classroom routine? How much damage did I cause by failing to sign her up for Mr. Will’s reading club at the library? Did I compound that damage by being conversely diligent about checking out two DVDs from said library on a biweekly basis? Actually, let’s skip ahead.
Am I ready for what this return means to me?
Back to packing lunches, an exercise in consulting Excel spreadsheets and an abacus. No nut products. More organic, less packaging. Shame on me and that fruit rope.
Back to laying out age-appropriate outfits, an exercise in defying Target. Sift past the lace and sequins and plunging V-necks. Identify the monochrome leggings and knee-grazing tunics. Aim for preschool clothes that say “I’m ready to get my spelling on” and not “mid-life crisis.”
Back to game-planning a timely exit of the house each morning, an exercise in early rising and dogged heckling. Make lunches with one hand, breakfast with the other. Retrieve strewn Cheerios with one foot, load dishwasher with the other. Bang wall with head. Repeat.
In sum, I am sad but excited that summer is over, while already overwhelmed by its passing.
This jumble of emotions is what September means to me now. This is what September will mean to me for many years. This is the September I dreamed of when I was concerned about filing briefs and not filing permission slips.
I suppose I should add grateful to my list of emotions this September.
Abby Diaz grew up in Falmouth and lives there again, because that’s how life works. She blogs at abbysleftovers.blogspot.com/.