As I write this, the heat index is above the century mark and my grandchildren are getting ready to return to school. It ain’t supposed to be that way. School shouldn’t be starting until the weather is cooler and all the tobacco has been harvested! Oops! That was another time.
For so many years school was the focus of my life. By school I mean from the first grade through college.
Starting school meant getting new clothes, new books, and new teachers as well as meeting new students. In the small rural schools such as Hallsboro, there were not that many new students. For almost all of the 12 years I went to school there, I saw the same faces every year. Usually, when the occasional new face showed up, it was only temporary. They moved on before the year was over.
But when I went off to college, fall took on a whole new meaning. For one thing, almost every face I saw was new. My clothes were not always new, but they were good enough to serve the purpose. The people who sat beside me in class, walked across the campus with me, ate meals with me, and generally shared the anxiety of college life were not too concerned about what I wore.
Starting school each year created an excitement because I didn’t know exactly what lay ahead. During grade school and high school there was a mixture of social eagerness combined with the knowledge that my life was changing and rushing toward a time when the familiarity of friends and teachers would no longer be there. I had to face the fact that sooner rather than later I would be on my own. When that time came, I looked around that college campus and realized that home was a long way from there. I knew that nothing would be the same again. I would make new friends and expand every part of my life but it wouldn’t be the same.
Then one fall came, and there was no school to go to. I saw school buses going down the road and students driving to school and I realized for the first time that none of that would be in my life. It was a shock.
After the shock wore off, nostalgia set in. I pictured in my mind the bright foliage that covered the college campus in the fall, the slight tension of the first class meeting in a subject I didn’t particularly want to take, the smell and feel of new books that I had actually purchased, the euphoria of the cold wind blowing across the football stadium or a walk to the gym on a Saturday afternoon, the late-night gatherings at the little cafe down the street, the bull sessions and the “intellectual” discussions ( no always two distinct exchanges), the excitement and dread of waiting for grades to be posted, and Grandmama’s cookies from home.
Then reality took over. The rent was due, the car payment was due, and the house was cold. Christmas was coming and my small paycheck meant minimal gifts for everybody. This is what I went to school for all those years?
Then came the babies and better jobs, and life began to improve generally. But my life still ran on the school year. It seems that l almost every significant fact of my life has taken place in the fall. I was born in the fall, started school in the fall, finally got out of school in the fall, got married in the fall (both times), every job change came in the fall, and I’ll bet when I die it will be in the fall.
The third season has given inspiration to poets for centuries. It has even inspired some good ol’ boys like me to write poetry.
Autumn rests softly on our memories
And golden days and blue-lit nights sprinkle stardust
In a thousand different eyes.