September reminds me of math. And I hate math. No doubt the association is a holdover from my back-to-school blues as a kid. It remains a month that leaves me melancholy, hanging between an end and a beginning.
There’s a nervous feeling in my gut, anticipating the inevitable quickening pace about to begin. It feels as if the opportunity for randomness and spontaneity — and, consequently, fun — is over until next June. The cool air of night pushes me too quickly into what’s ahead, my annual bout of autumn anxiety. Although the first day of fall doesn’t come till the 22nd of the month, I don’t have to wait until then to recognize the signs.
One day, wearing shorts and a T-shirt isn’t right any more. No way around it, September demands you up your fashion game. But I’m far from ready for the long red coats and glittery boots and fishnet stockings and shearling hats now featured in the windows of stores on Manhasset’s Miracle Mile.
The trees start to come alive with color, their last hurrah. Political yard signs pop up, announcing that Labor Day has passed. The farmers market at Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn replaces peaches and watermelon with Indian corn, pumpkins and mums. And suddenly there is traffic outside my door as Searingtown School in Albertson opens and yellow buses and dozens of school personnel slowly make their way down my street.
September is a 30-days-long goodbye to the season of sunny outdoor explorations and grilled corn on the cob. Vacations are done and obligations gather. It feels like the end of freedom and play. The season of heat and water descends into darker and cooler days. Autumn is full of challenges — new schedules, new assignments, all seeming overwhelming to my lethargic self.
The sight of school supplies lining the aisles of my CVS turns my psyche inward. Decades and decades after I was a student, I dream of showing up at school blindsided, without the knowledge that day is the final exam.
My sister, Karen, uses an expression. Whenever things look dark, she “flips it.” She insists there’s usually another side of most issues that isn’t quite as bleak as the one making you miserable. And if you shine a light on that stuff, you’ll feel better.
So get ready, dreaded ninth month of the year, I’m flipping you.
First, I’m always surprised how strong and powerful September sunshine can be, encouraging me to feel that dreaded winter is way far away. Its early evenings are crisp and clear and perfect for pulling on a new sweater and taking a long walk around the neighborhood. Then there are apple pies and stacked firewood and newly sharpened pencils with unscuffed erasers to boost my morale. TV reruns have had it and my favorite shows return. And this September, especially, heralds the end of the Long Island Rail Road’s “summer of hell.”
September is about new beginnings. It feels more about fresh starts than Jan. 1. Like any transition, it shakes up the terrain. Without this essential crossroad, life would remain as stagnant as a hazy, humid August afternoon. So bring on the velvet and plaids and wide belts. Not that I’ll be going anywhere. Because September, the start of football season, makes the man I married almost 50 years ago the happiest guy in America.
Reader Marcia Byalick lives in Searingtown.