Sunday, August 31, 2014

September Eve

Dear George,
It’s hard to believe, but another September is almost here.  All of these months are rich in meanings, but September is certainly one of the best.  Perhaps it’s most important because it’s always the beginning of the school year.  But there’s lots of other stuff too.  When I was a kid, we’d go with my dad to the union Labor Day picnics in Menominee County to help with his political campaigning for prosecuting attorney.  As the weather got cooler, our summer swimming season would come to an end, and we’d begin toasting marshmallows in our outdoor fireplace.  The squirrels would be busy gathering acorns from our front lawn, milkweed pods would release their fluffy innards, and the maples and oaks would be turning to their brilliant reds and yellows.  We had stored dried cattails in the garage all summer long, and now we’d douse them in kerosene, set them on fire, and race in circles around the driveway.  Best of all, the Menominee and Marinette High School football seasons would start with all their accompanying excitement.  

A lot of famous people have been born in September.  Just to name a few, Adam West (TV Batman), Twiggy, Rocky Marciano, Trisha Yearwood, Mama Cass Elliott, Jimmy Fallon, and Joe Morgan of the Cincinnati Reds.  Closer to home, our son J’s entire family was born in September: our daughter-in-law K on Sept. 15 (Independence Day throughout Central America), our granddaughter V on Sept. 16 (Grito de Dolores, Mexico’s Independence Day), J himself on Sept. 19 (International Talk Like a Pirate Day), and our grandson L on Sept. 30 (Martyrs Memorial Day in China).  September is practically a nonstop birthday party in their NOLA household.  For us oldies, National Grandparents’ Day is on the first Sunday after Labor Day, and the Japanese celebrate Respect for the Aged Day on the third Monday of September.

I think one could plot out one’s entire life course just by listing personal events in the month of September.  Here are some memorable Septembers that come to mind for me:
  • Sept. 1942: I started kindergarten at Boswell School in Menominee’s west end.  The main thing I remember is being petrified.
  • Sept. 1948.  My sixth grade teacher, Miss Guimond, appointed me Captain of the Safety Patrol.  That meant that I had to stand guard at the street corner over the lunch hour while the rest of the boys were playing football (actually with my football that I brought to school each day).
  • Sept. 1949:  I began seventh grade at Menominee High.  Going from being a big shot sixth-grader to a puny seventh-grader was petrifying.
  • Sept. 1953: I was elected president of the junior class at M.H.S.  That’s only because everyone thought it was such a nerdy thing to do. 
  • Sept. 1955:  I started my freshman year at Antioch College in Yellow Springs.  I won’t say I was naïve, but, when my new classmates started talking about “socialism”, I thought they were referring to some type of social disease like syphilis or gonorrhea.  I was really confused.   
  • Sept. 1957: I moved to New York City on an Antioch coop job and, after a single visit to Times Square, I decided New York was the only place I was ever going to live.
  • Sept. 1958: My steady girlfriend Katja W. left for a year abroad in France and Vienna, a painful and perilous separation. 
  • Sept. 1960: Married for one week, Katja and I moved to Ann Arbor after Labor Day to begin graduate school.  Though we were initially snobs about the Big Ten, it only took one game for us to become devoted U.M. football fans.
  • Sept. 1965:  As a teaching fellow I had my first experience of teaching discussion sections of a large social psychology class.  Consumed with anxiety, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. 
  • Sept. 1966: I taught my first class in my new faculty job in Cincinnati and immediately came down with a stress-related fever blister (which was to recur annually every September for the next 43 years).
  • Sept. 1969:  Our son J was born on the nineteenth.  Back home from the hospital, we’d tiptoe into his room every night because we couldn’t tell if he were breathing from next door.
  • Sept. 1978:  I began my first academic year as a new full professor.  I came down with double pneumonia on the first day of classes and spent the next three weeks in the hospital. 
  • Sept. 1984: Katja began graduate study in the M.S.W. program at the university, switching from adjunct teaching in the French department to a better paying career because of imminent college expenses.
  • Sept. 1987: We drove J to New York City to begin his freshman year of college.   After dropping him off, I immediately became deathly ill and was confined to bed for the next three days. 
  • Sept. 2006:  I began a two-year term as Acting Head of the Sociology Department, a job I’d always dreaded but which proved surprisingly tolerable.
  • Sept. 2008:  Our sweet grandchildren were born, V in NOLA, L in China. 
  • Sept. 2009:  I began my last academic quarter of teaching social psychology before retiring at the end of the year.
  • Sept. 2013: I started taking OLLI classes for people over 50 at the university.  I thought I would hate being back in the classroom, but it was actually kind of pleasant to be a student again.     

Now that I’ve made my list, it looks like September has been a stressful month for me.  But that’s just because it’s the time of the year for new beginnings.  I don’t know what this September holds in store.  We’ll find out as we go along.

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