Today in 1846, the planet Neptune was discovered. Still reeling from the downsizing of Pluto, the thought of a solar system without Neptune would surely send me over the edge. Unless today also happened to be “Play Checkers Day,” which, miraculously, it is! So break out those red and black boards and king me a few! I need a quick fix to get me through September, a month crueler than all the rest, including the oft-mispronounced February.
September ushers in a return to schedules, keeping track of everyone’s homework, attempting to get four kids to four different fields for practice, hurried meals on wheels, and utter chaos.
A lovely mother came into the library last week with her youngest of five in a stroller. It’s always fun to see her because she’s so upbeat and friendly. When I asked her about her flock’s first week of school, her perpetually sunny face drooped a bit and she said, “I hate the mother I become in the fall. I turn into such a nag.”
She’s right. We moms go from the leisure of August right into the lessons of September, and the transition is just as difficult for us as it is for our children, regardless of whether they are 6, 16 or 20.
If they’re 6 and tottering off to kindergarten for the first time, you may be elated at the thought of a totally unencumbered morning to be filled with childless activities: manicures, massages by Sven, leisurely shopping, maybe even a round of golf at the Field Club. On the other hand, you might be totally bummed out at the thought of your baby leaving the nest. Rest assured that after several weepy weeks, you will enjoy the mornings that suddenly seem not quite long enough.
When they’re 16, you watch them get on the bus and wonder when your 6-year-old suddenly became 16. Where did the time go? During their high school years, you find yourself looking forward to college because they’re so sullen and disagreeable. Yet even when that September moment comes along, and they leave for college, your elation deflates a bit as you realize this is the end of one phase of parenting and the beginning of years and years of U-Hauls and college tuition.
I hate September, and I would venture to say some of my readers feel exactly the same way. If your children are school age, it is a hectic, horrible time of readjustment, nagging and a return to schedules, so you despise it for that reason. If your children are off to college, you have the dreaded empty nest to deal with: the silent rooms and the realization that your spouse might be a bit of a stranger to you. Or, if your children are now adults and off on their own, you feel a deep sadness as you watch neighborhood children climb into the big yellow bus the way yours once did. Whatever phase you find yourself in, there is something very bittersweet about this month.
Yet many wonderful things have also happened in September, and I’d like to remind you of them, in an effort to cheer you up. If you’re Jewish, you get five holidays crammed into one autumnal month. If you’re Mexican, you celebrate your Independence Day with not one measly day, but two days: Sept. 15 and 16. Back in September of 1820, it was proven tomatoes were safe to eat. Hallelujah! (Can you imagine a world without pizza, ketchup or lasagna? Me neither, so thank you, dear September! I’m wondering, though—who took the first bite?)
Did you know that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was composed on Sept. 14, 1814? If you are a Trekkie, you would know that Star Trek debuted on Sept. 6, 1966. I am not a Trekkie, so I am more impressed by the fact that The Wizard of Oz was published on Sept. 3, 1900. Penicillin was discovered in September and Babe Ruth hit his first home run on a sunny Saturday in 1915.
We were treated to the very first televised presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy on Sept. 26, 1960. I was in kindergarten at the time, and I remember my parents, their eyes affixed to the small black and white set. Vice President Nixon looked mean to me, so when our elementary school had a mock election, I voted for Sen. Kennedy.
Famous September babies run the gamut from Jane Addams to Freddy Mercury, George Gershwin to Dvorak. Many famous authors were also born in the ninth month, including T.S. Eliot, James Fennimore Cooper, Roald Dahl and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It was also a big month for our country. The name, "The United States of America" was adopted on Sept. 9, 1776. The U.S. Constitution was completed and signed on the 17th in 1787. And on the 25th day of September in 1789, the Bill of Rights was created.
Then, we have a boatload of odd, month-long holidays and events. When you see the list, you’ll wonder, as I do, who sits around thinking these things up? September is National Chicken Month, so be kind and take a chicken to lunch on Main Street. It also happens to be Kids’ Good Manners Month, so remind the young’uns to say please and thank you. And because September is Better Breakfast Month, you’ll need to get up around 5:30 a.m. and prepare a gourmet breakfast for your clan, only to have them rush out the door with granola bars.
Has any of this nonsense cheered you up? Me neither. So let’s hope September goes by mercifully quickly. Let’s look at it as a gateway to October and our beloved Halloween, when we all get to act like kids again.