September 23, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

September reflections compose a beautiful song of life

Cynthia Dewes“Oh, it’s a long, long way from May to December, and the days grow short when you reach September.” Thus begins the famous “September Song” that’s always spoken to me in more ways than just enjoyment of its lovely melody. The music enforces the lyrics, which in turn capture the sweetness and melancholy of the autumn season.

As a child, this time of year for me meant the sad ending of summer, which is beautiful but short in Minnesota. But it also meant the beginning of the school year, something I looked forward to because this only child found it to be a social opportunity. Still, autumn has always been a time of reflection for me as well.

Nostalgia kicks in, and memories flood my mind, memories of love and fun, old friends, old times, even old mistakes and sorrows. For some reason, I’m especially alert to these reflections. It’s kind of like New Year’s Eve, without the formal resolutions.

Recently, I told one of our sons that I was reading a biography of E.B. White, the author of the children’s classics Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. He left the room for a moment and returned with a copy of Charlotte’s Web, which we had given him as a Christmas present when he was 8 years old. I’d entirely forgotten we gave him the book, but seeing it reminded me of the sweet little boy who had received it.

Memories of the funny, kind and affectionate child that he had been—and is—came back to me. I remembered his endearing “malapropisms,” such as the time he saw Dad drive up in our new Buick and exclaimed, “Oh, you bought a Buck!” And I thought of his empathy for the underdog, which has extended to other concerns like sustaining a healthy environment.

Besides memories of our children, I thought of our humble financial beginnings. Today, some young people seem to expect to begin adult life at the same economic level as their parents are now. But we started with much lower expectations.

Our first budget book lists every credit we earned, and every cost we incurred. One entry on the debit side reads: “candy bar, 5 cents.” Imagine listing a 5-cent purchase or, for that matter, finding a candy bar costing only 5 cents!

Because money was scarce, our summer vacations were camping trips by car. Gasoline was cheap. We thought travel was fun and educational so we took the kids all over the U.S. following planned itineraries to visit historical, naturally beautiful or just plain interesting places. We took side trips to visit with relatives, whose hospitality often saved our budget.

Once we went to sleep on a lovely Nebraska evening, only to awake to a terrific thunderstorm tearing our tent from its moorings. We wound up spending the night damply in the car, as we did later in Kansas and Florida and wherever.

Some of our most hilarious memories come from the disasters we experienced, and some are even more memorable than the things that went right.

Unfortunately, grief is also memorable, and autumn is a time to think of it since it seems to represent an ending of natural life. I remember our sons’ and parents’ and friends’ deaths, the times we were seriously ill, or when a house fire evicted us from our home for a few months.

Still, September means that Advent is near, bringing hope and the anticipation of joy. That’s the best “September Song.”

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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