September brings painful memories, celebrates natural beauty
Sanda Baucom Hight
September rolled around as usual this year and brought with it painful memories that we cannot forget.
Actually, we do not want to forget the loss that our country suffered on that dreadful day in 2001. We continue to watch the images, hear firsthand accounts and feel the pain, even after 20 years.
September takes some of us off guard every year, yet we still have to live our lives and find beauty to get us through. Even with September’s pain, we can find comfort in its rich lessons.
September during my childhood was special. Our family was old-fashioned in some ways. We sat around the table at mealtime, ate together, talked and shared many things.
Before breakfast was over, Daddy had told us about a few items he had just read about in the morning paper. We children were sleepy, and we mostly listened as Daddy reported the news and Mother attended to everyone’s breakfast needs.
Then there was suppertime when we had the most meaningful talking and sharing, all of us being wide awake and having reports to make about our day.
One such suppertime in September, after all the elbowing and requests of “Pass the peas, please,” Daddy recited parts of Helen Hunt Jackson’s poem, “September,” which he memorized at the Anson County school from which he graduated. I can hear Daddy say, “The golden-rod is yellow/ The corn in turning brown.”
I remember being amazed that someone as old as Daddy could remember a poem that he learned in his childhood. Other lines from the poem are still in my memory: “And asters by the brookside/ Make asters in the brook.”
There are many other examples of suppertime sharing throughout the year, but the recitation of “September” remains the most vivid. There were actually several Septembers during my childhood when Daddy recited Jackson’s poem.
I have read this poem many times in my adulthood, mainly to recapture that pleasant family time as we broke bread. I realize now how the experience with the poem, so simple that children can understand it, taught valuable lessons.
One such lesson is that images from poetry, when experienced in the right setting, never really disappear.
I can still smell the sweet odor of grapes in the morning and see the fluttering of a yellow butterfly, both of which are mentioned in the poem.
I can visualize golden-rod, brown corn, blue gentians, milkweed and apple trees so heavy with fruit that they bow down. Some September day, I hope to see in person some asters as they make a reflection in the brook.
Another lesson is that during September, summer will segue into fall without making a fuss. Jackson got it right when she wrote, “September days are here / With summer’s best of weather / And autumn’s best of cheer.”
The best lesson is that a casual suppertime recitation can plant a humble seed that might grow into a precious seasonal memory. There is no way to measure the power of sharing at mealtime and engaging children in conversation.
We all know that our social environment has created painful memories for September; we struggle with that. I suggest that we allow the natural environment of September to ease some of that pain.
Daddy loved September, probably because he was born on Sept. 10 and because he loved the natural beauty on his family farm during that month, the images in Helen Hunt Jackson’s poem and the thoughts of going dove hunting when the season came in.
Thank you, Daddy, for all those September suppertime lessons in poetry and in life. They stuck.
I am going to continue to ponder the meaning of September loss, and I will surely keep on looking for asters in the brook. And if I do not find them, that is all right. I can see them in my mind’s eye.
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently serving as a substitute teacher in Wilson County.
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