Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Autumns of Our Lives
I know Sept. 1 isn’t really the start of autumn, but it always feels that way to me. Poets sometimes depict autumn as a period of gradual decline, the entryway into winter’s desolation. There may be a kernel of truth to that, but it’s not the whole story. In fact, autumn is first and foremost a time of new beginnings. It’s the start of college and NFL football seasons, as well as the basketball season too. With daily highs in the 70’s, September is the most popular month of the year for camping. The year’s new TV shows premiere in the autumn, and, having slogged through its terrible summer doldrums, Hollywood rolls out its potential Oscar nominees. The election season moves into full swing, promoting remarkable characters like Donald Trump, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul. The new symphony, ballet, and theater seasons begin. Most of all, it’s the start of the new school year and all the good things that come with that, whether one is in second grade or graduate school (or even OLLI classes for seniors). Katja and I have enjoyed a lot of notable autumns over the years. Here are a few of our personal autumn highlights.
· 1942: Much to my horror, I had to leave my mother to start kindergarten at Boswell School on September 8, the day after Labor Day. I only survived because I got to walk back and forth each day with my five-year-old friend, Sally F.
· 1942: Katja began the settlement house music school in inner city Philadelphia where she learned to play the cymbals and the timpani.
· 1946: Swimming at our new home on the river reached its end in October, and we gathered red and yellow leaves to press and dry in thick encyclopedia volumes.
· 1947: On Halloween night our family joined the O’Hara’s at their house on Stephenson Avenue, and we kids went trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, gathering bags overflowing with Tootsie Rolls and bubble gum.
· 1948: Miss Guimond appointed me Captain of the Safety Patrol at Washington Grade School. This meant that I had to stand at attention on the street corner while the rest of the kids played marbles and ran in circles on the playground.
· 1949: I began seventh grade at Menominee H.S., hanging out with the Grant School kids during lunch hour and playing touch football until the snow arrived.
· 1951: Katja began ninth grade at Girls’ High in Philadelphia, a memorable year in which she failed geometry twice but began her four years of studying French with Mademoiselle Burnstein, an undertaking which was to shape her life course.
· 1953: With the high school football season in full sway, I worked in the Hi-Y refreshment stand at Walton Blesch Field, selling hot dogs and hamburgers to hungry Maroon sports fans. Afterwards we went to the high school dance where the boys stood around while the girls danced with each another.
· 1953: I began my year-long term as Junior Class vice-president at Menominee High, a nominal position that involved no duties or perks except being in the “Royal Court” at the Junior Prom with my date, Carol G.
· 1955: Katja and I began our freshman year at Antioch, a time of great adventure and turmoil. I saw Katja across the lawn on our first day, was immediately lovestruck, but didn’t find the courage or opportunity to meet her for another year and a half.
· 1957: I went on a coop job at Popular Science magazine in New York City. I lived and 163rd West End in Washington Heights, loved the city, visited Greenwich Village and the Bowery on weekends, and vowed I’d never live anywhere else.
· 1960: Katja and I got married at Antioch on Aug. 28, then promptly moved to Ann Arbor for graduate school. As Antiochians, Katja and I were entirely snobbish about Big Ten football until we actually went to Michigan Stadium. We were immediately transformed into avid fans and never missed another home game.
· 1964: At Katja’s urging, we took a break from grad school and did a six-week tour of Europe, starting in Brussels and ending at Hotel Roquebrun on the French Riviera with my dad.
· 1966: Having moved to Cincinnati, I taught my first class as a new university professor and immediately broke out with a fever blister on my lip, a stress symptom that was to repeat itself each September for forty-plus years.
· 1967: My parents took us to a below-freezing Packer game at Lambeau Field where Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, and troops were advancing toward Super Bowl II.
· 1969: Our son J was born at Christ Hospital on September 19, the most momentous happening in our lives.
· 1973: Travelling from the East Coast, the Midwest, and the West Coast, we siblings and our families had the first of many enjoyable family reunions at my parents’ Birch Creek farm.
· 1974: J started kindergarten at Clifton School, walking each morning from our Clifton Ave. apartment with his friend Tom W.
· 1978: I began the academic year as a newly promoted full professor and promptly came down with double pneumonia, requiring a two-week hospital stay.
· 1981: J began 7th grade at Walnut Hills H.S., Cincinnati’s well-regarded college prep school. He worried the big kids would stuff him into a locker.
· 1984: With an eye on upcoming college costs, Katja enrolled in the MSW program at the university.
· 1986: Katja was hired as a social worker at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind.
· 1987: We dropped J off for his freshmen year at Columbia, and I was bedridden for 48 hours with a mysterious illness.
· 1993: Our father, Vic L., died in Cincinnati on Nov. 8, 3 days after his 85th birthday.
· 1995: J began medical school classes at LSU-New Orleans.
· 2002: Our new Old English Sheepdog puppies, Mike and Duffy, turned six months old in October.
· 2006: I began a two-year term as Acting Head of the Department of Sociology, a responsibility I’d actively avoided for some time but surprisingly came to enjoy.
· 2008: Our granddaughter V was born on Sept. 16 in Louisiana, and our grandson L was born on Sept. 30 in Taiyun, China.
· 2009: A half year into retirement I signed up for line dancing at the fitness center, continued regular visits to my office, did occasional camping with the sheepdogs, and busily worked on my blog.
· 2010: Our grandchildren L and V, along with their parents, made their first of several annual Thanksgiving visits to Cincinnati.
· 2013: I joined Katja in taking OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) classes at the university.
· 2015: Katja and our friend Donna will go to Paris and Northern France in October while I will be in charge of sheepdogs Mike and Sophie. Who knows what other surprising adventures autumn 2015 will bring?