As the twilight days of summer dwindle and the sun peers a bit later above the Texas horizon each morning, the turning of the calendar page from August to September awakens vivid memories of the quickening cadence of life that comes with the start of a new school year.
Even for those of us whose days in the classroom are now decades in the past, September still marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. Having spent six out of my seven decades of life around schools, September was, and remains, one of the most meaningful months of the year, signaling a return to a familiar rhythm to life.
One song that, for me, perfectly evokes these deeply embedded memories is “See You in September,” written by Wayne and Sherman Edwards in 1959 and recorded in Pittsburgh by The Tempos. In 1966, the most popular version of “See You in September” was recorded by The Happenings, hitting number three on the charts. Click here to listen to the Tempo’s version.
Like most students, I always loved the beginning of the school year. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my summers. My good friends and I would spend time hanging out at the local youth center where we went to Saturday night dances and consumed burgers served by dutiful parental chaperones. And, of course, we all looked forward to a key rite of passage for any adolescent in those days–getting our driver’s license. I can still see in my mind’s eye my giddy 14-year-old friends driving up and down between two drive-in burger restaurants at opposite sides of the local drag. It was a different time, completely.
By the time mid-July arrived, however, I would begin to feel twinges of excitement at the prospect for the coming commencement of a new school year. Because many of my friends rode the school bus and some even lived as far as 60 miles outside of town, we didn’t get to see each other often in the summer, so the prospect of rekindling these friendships was exciting.
By mid-August, the anticipation began to build further. My mother, sister and I would make the 80-mile drive to Lubbock to shop for new school shoes and sometimes new clothes. Most often, however, we’d chose beautiful fabric that Mother would then transform into stylish school outfits. That trip was always the signal that school was just around the corner. To this day, I recall how important it was to choose the most “in” notebook.
My thoughts would turn to prospects for the sweet smell of pencil shavings, the prospect of new thick textbooks filled with hidden knowledge and, of course, the opportunity to show off my new shoes.
The beginning of the new school year brought new growth opportunities. School was my social place: it’s where I learned to play the flute in the Seminole Marching Band, where I determined to travel to faraway places in Spanish class and where I learned to hem a skirt in Home Economics, though I hated it. High school was where some of my happiest and most painful memories occurred.
Perhaps the excitement, the importance of school, the meaning of an education and the impact it had on me and the great teachers who taught me I could excel made me want to pursue a career in education. Teaching and leading schools were my aspirations since very young; I wanted to make a difference.
Now that I’m retired, I don’t go to school anymore. However, I believe that, as long as we’re alive, each of us remains enrolled in that vast school called life. Every day, we have the opportunity to learn, and can also play a vital role in teaching others through our words and deeds.
What memories does the start of the new school year invoke for you? This week I encourage you to make note of your strongest September memories and try to discover which ones still hold the most meaning, and why.