And just like that, it’s suddenly September. The summer months have flown by while we’ve been mostly stuck at home in our quarantine bubbles. As September starts anew, there’s a palpable change in how the year feels. Whether it’s because of school starting back up, the looming change of seasons, or something more personal, here’s what September means to us.
You are dressed nicely, dancing in a demure hip-oscillating simplicity, cocktail-napkin wrapped beer in hand, just waiting, waiting for the moment. Then it arrives, leading with a funky but non-threatening bassline. Next, rhythmic snaps trojan-horsing for the horns to blast through and plunder this wedding. People have begun to recognize, their necks craning to catch as much of the energy, like a sunflower bending towards the sun.
Others are already heading your way, involuntarily. Nostalgically, because they’ve done it before and it’s never let them down. The horns crescendo and beckon, a call to arms. All the while, your shoulders loosen, feet and ankles tell you that they are ready to do work. A light knee bend, is the final preparation for the wave that bears down. And everything comes together as a dulcet voice asks, “Do you remember, the twenty-first night of September?”
My brother-in-law Mike.
My sister Syd.
My bestie Christina.
My father-in-law Gary.
My cousin-in-law Elizabeth.
My husband Lawrence.
There are so many goddamn September birthdays I have to keep track of (and those are all in order, btw). I swear, if I have a kid that might be born in September, I will hold them in until October! Because I love all the people on that list, but it’s too much!!!
Ohio, September has come. The gates are open. The faire…is here!
You slip into your leather boots, tie tight your corset, and don your feathered pirate hat. The shows, the shops, the sights! You drink it all in with the mead and cider from the bustling pubs. The crepes, King’s Nuts, and turkey legs fill your belly as the music fills your heart.
You greet familiar faces and welcome first-timers with love. You see your people, young and old, new and seasoned, smiling and shining in the glee of the Faire. You are home.
*Sadly, but out of necessity, the Ohio Renaissance Festival was canceled this year. So this is my little love letter to the happiest time of year for me.
Apples cloaked in caramel and sprinkles. Thousands of bright orange pumpkins ready to be picked from the vine. Muffins topped with dollops of cream cheese. Goats staring at you crazily from their barn balcony. What does this all mean? The Little Farmer has opened, of course.
Each year, my family and I count down the days until it’s cool enough to bring out the flannels and boots and to the Little Farmer, also known as the dream of any Fall lover. There’s the caramel apple barn, where you can watch apples get dipped and drizzled with caramel, and then rolled in your topping of choice, be it M&M’S, or nuts. Across the little square, you’ll be drawn to the store, as the open doors allow the scent of baked goods to overwhelm your senses. You can try a pie filled with freshly-sliced apples, down a bottle of cider, or satisfy breakfast and lunch with muffins the size of two fists combined. If you’re smart, you’ll do all three.
While your hands are full, you can’t leave without picking a pumpkin, buying a Mum, or feeding a goat. Yes, you’ll drop more money than you planned, but it’s the highlight of Fall. Isn’t it worth it when you’re experiencing the place that every harvest Bath & Body Works candle is trying to channel? Most definitely.
MY motherfuckin birthday.
September 1st is my internal clock’s New Year’s Day. You can thank the tyranny of the academic calendar, which ruled my life from age 5 to 23. On the Gregorian Calendar, January 1st falls 8 days after the theoretical birth of Jesus, AKA the day of his bris, AKA the day Jesus would have been circumcised. Call me self-involved, but starting a new school year always felt more momentous and logical as a place to reset my journey around the sun, as compared to a cold, dark day commemorating a specific religious group’s savior’s lack of ability to save his own foreskin.
Every September, I am perennially the girl entering a new high school across the county, knowing exactly one person, and then 9 others who would comprise the Freshman field hockey team. By day I wear little spaghetti strap dresses over baby tees with Doc Martens; in afternoons it’s a polo shirt and a kilt that, unlike every other team in the division, is solid not plaid (which is such a bummer. It is the 90s, after all). I’m so happy we have a game today, and not practice where we might have to do bow-tie runs or push-ups. Hopefully Janelle remembers to bring electrical tape so we can decorate our sticks on the bus and really show North we came to win!
Every September, when the sun hits in juuust that way and grass clippings pepper the air, I close my eyes and I’m back at the beginning again.
Back to school shopping. But only black or brown shoes. White, navy, or black knee high socks. No new nail polish or other loud accessories. Catholic School was strict as fuck, so that’s why I found expression in colored notebooks and sparkly pens. With this Gelly Roll, they’ll know my true personality.
The joy of a new notebook sent excitement through my uniformed body. The promise of perfect folders jacked me up more than cocaine (I’ve only done it once, but this is still true). The idea of writing the date, September 1, 1999 in a fresh notebook with a smooth ass Lightning Purple pen was more exciting than the possibility of a crush on a boy who was too small and too loud for me anyways. I still find ways to crush the “upcoming school year.” Cause learning is sick, dude. Let’s fucking go.
Matt and I tented together and hung out with the older kids during Boy Scout trips before we left Troop 77. Maggie was part of my church’s youth group and she was always pretty disruptive, but I thought she was funny in a John Bender Breakfast Club-type way.
I think about Matt and Maggie every year around this time, not because I get nostalgic about our shared experiences, but because they share a September 2nd birthday. It’s the one thing I remember most about them, which is funny, because I don’t remember anyone else’s birthday.
While I never wish either of them well on this day, I always think to before considering the barriers to connection. Matt traded social media for happiness years ago and Maggie is the type to be weirded out by a random message from a person she used to know.
It’s a shame, because they were the first two people outside my family I ever sang “Happy Birthday” to way back in Mrs. Hinton’s 1999-2000 kindergarten class. On that September 2, 1999 day, I figured I’d always be there, surrounded by friends, to celebrate Matt and Maggie’s turning one year older.
Maybe I’ll reach out this year, but I probably won’t. No birthday message should be more about the sender than the receiver.
September owns both the weariness of summer and the promise of cooler days. It might be my favorite month, with the sounds of football and randy mockingbirds getting it on. The air dries out just a little, and the school routines are finally… routine. But the best, most sacred part of September is the emergence of the almighty, vaulted and revered, genuflect-worthy kitchen apparatus in which most meals for the foreseeable future will be crafted with love and a dash of don’t-give-a-shit. The crockpot. My crockpot. Crusted over with years of vestigial sauce residue and unthinkable stews made from half-dead vegetables. It’s not really a casserole if it came from the crockpot, so no shame allowed. Grab a fork, or a spoon. You never can tell.
September always brings me back to second grade, and my new, aluminum Snoopy lunchbox.
I loved that lunchbox. It kept everything all compartmentalized and protected from the idiot boys on the bus who tried (but failed) to push me around.
And September always reminds me of Thermoses, too. I remember being excited to finally have a Thermos in my lunchbox. The anticipation of screwing off the cap and pouring my drink into the cute little plastic cup.
That lasted about a week or two, before I realized what a pain in the ass Thermoses really are. They’re heavy. And the cups are too small. And they just take too friggin’ long to unscrew, use, and then put back together. Time I didn’t have when all I really wanted was to escape the cafeteria and get my ass out on the playground for recess.
So September reminds me of lunchboxes, and Thermoses, and how it never takes long for the bloom to fade from the rose, and reality to set in.
As the cool air descends and the days start getting shorter, I can sense that September is on the way. As a kid, this meant that my days of running around barefoot were traded for new kicks, a heavy backpack, and well, anxiety.
Though I finished school years ago, this month always brings with it the expectation of productivity. I feel the call to stop dreaming and one to start doing. September is a yearly reminder that it is time to get my shit together.
I have never been a fan of authority but I do miss the structure of school and it’s clear measure of success. Now I am left wondering what exactly an A would look like in adulthood.
I remember September as back-to-school month, even though my school district changed the start date to mid-August. Like many middle-to-high-income families, this meant whole-wardrobe back-to-school shopping, a perplexing ritual since I never felt I needed more clothes. As my mother reminded us, she made sure we had more than enough.
My mother believed in giving us a degree of choice in the shopping process (she also believed in shooting down impractical decisions). As an indecisive child, I invented style parameters to alleviate my choice paralysis, the goal being to dress the part of a non-threatening, well-behaved, studious Black person: polo shirt, khakis, jacket,
hoodies, blue jeans, t-shirts, shorts (I liked my skin covered).
In public, I needed to wear my jacket, otherwise I would feel naked and stressed. I kept it on even in triple-degree weather, when people exclaimed how are you wearing that in this heat??
What does September mean to you? Jump into the discussion happening with @thepromptmag on Twitter to share your perspective.