September sings her plaintive melody as she enters our hills, putting summer to flight and bringing cooler weather. The humming birds are gone. One day they were hovering over the feeders, fussing and chittering, and the next day not one of the tiny creatures could be seen. Obeying an instinct as old as time, they have made their seasonal flight to warmer climates. Labor Day marks the date to take down feeders, so that none of them is tempted to linger longer than is safe for them.
The autumn season brings a greater awareness of the swift passage of time. There is a feeling of melancholy in the air, and the cicadas are singing a farewell to summer. The dead and dying gardens testify to the fact that the cycle of life has ended once more. There is a deeper response within us that reminds us that we too are mortal and our cycle of life has an end.
Perhaps I have such an affinity with the autumn season because I was born in it. Today I am 82. It is hard for me to grasp that the years have passed so swiftly; looking back it is almost like a dream. The Bible in 1 Chronicles 29-15 says, “For we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”
I remember when I was a young mother, and the days seemed too short to accomplish all that I had to do, that I asked my father if time slowed down when you get older. He replied, “No, Alyce Faye, time goes faster.” I can agree with David when he said in Psalms 102-11, “My days are like a shadow that declineth; I am withered like grass.” However, the next verse gives us hope. Verse 12 “But Thou, O Lord, shall endure forever: and Thy remembrance unto all generations.”
Still, this is my favorite season of the year. I love stripping the garden of the last of its produce and knowing that you haven’t let anything go to waste. There is a secure feeling when you walk in the garden and know that summer’s bounty has been canned, preserved, pickled and frozen. It is the same feeling that you get when you see the neatly stacked pile of winter firewood, and can rest assured that you are ready for cold weather.
Blending in with the yellow of the goldenrod, the blue of the gentian and purple of the ironweed is the bright yellow of the school buses as our children start to school once more. Although it has been quite some time since our own children boarded one of these buses, the sight of them brings a remembered pang to the heart. It seems just a breath ago that our children were in school, and not much longer that we were going. Now grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going. Time passes so fast that it is hard to grasp.
In memory, I walk the dusty road to Hagar School once again, climbing the hill in my stiff new shoes that feel strange after a summer of going barefoot. There are butterflies of excitement and apprehension in my stomach. I pass the trash barrel burning, the big beech trees that overshadow the old pitcher pump-trees that yielded the biggest beechnuts I have ever seen. (We made paper cups from our notebook paper and filled them with beechnuts to sneak and eat during our lessons.)
On past the well house, I stand lined up with the other children in front of the tall steps. Saluting “Old Glory” as she waves proudly from the flagpole. The “Pledge of Allegiance” over, we march up the steps to our respective classrooms. We had a “little” room for our primary grades, and the “big” room was composed of the lordly upper grades. I smell again the familiar chalky odor of the blackboard, and see the letters of the alphabet hanging on the wall of the little room—big and little letters. My arm aches with the remembered Palmer method of handwriting; the swooping O’s and M’s we made with our whole arm.
I hear Miss Carper saying, “Now children, read again from your “Peter and Peggy” book. We read again about the circus monkey that fell into a barrel of tar, and work simple arithmetic problems on the board. What an honor it was to be chosen to dust the erasers at the end of the day! It was a chance to escape the schoolroom for just a few minutes, although we made multiple trips to the toilet, whether we needed to or not.
We had no fancy playground equipment or blacktopped lot—just a dirt playground packed hard from hundreds of running feet. Yet, no one had more fun playing than we did. The boys are playing their endless marble games, and I join the girls in their rope jumping. That heavy rope would crack a welt on a skinny shinbone, and again I hear the chant of “Johnny crossed the ocean, Johnny crossed the sea, Johnny broke the milk bottle, and laid it on to me. I told Maw, and she told Paw, and poor old Johnny got H-O-T!” The rope turns as fast as it will go, and I jump out.
I hear Mr. Hinkle ring the hand bell to summons us back into the schoolhouse, hot and tired from games of tag, base and softball. The evening drones on, with each class going to the blackboard to recite their lessons. Day’s end finds us trudging home, carrying our shoes and the lessons we did that day.
The two-room schoolhouses are a relic of the past, and have outlived their usefulness. But I am thankful for the memories of my first eight years of schooling, and wouldn’t trade it for the most modern means of education devised. Hagar School is gone now; the big beech trees that produced the tasty beechnuts have been cut down. Gone are most of the teachers (if not all) and a great many of the students—but the memories linger on.
Many thanks for the beautiful birthday cards that I have received. I am honored and blessed. I love you all.
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