September used to mean Labor Day, back to school, 100-something shopping days ‘til Christmas.
Then came 9/11, which changed September for us permanently. “Time to remember when life was so tender that no-one wept except the willow…”
Unfortunately, plenty of terrible, tragic things in history happened in September long before 2001.
Hitler invaded Poland (1939). Rome fell (476).
The Great Fire of London (1666) and the worst of the London Blitz (1941). The September Massacres of the French Revolution (1792). The Battle of Antietam (1862), the bloodiest day in American history.
Black September (1970).
Jerusalem was sacked (70). Wenceslas − Duke in life and Saint in death − was murdered (935). The “Great Leap Forward” famine in China began (1958), in which 30 million people starved to death.
Anne Frank was sent to Auschwitz (1944).
Past Septembers have brought us many good − even wonderful − things, too.
Victory Over Japan (V-J) Day (1945), which ended World War II. Viking II landing on Mars (1976). The first edition of the New York Times (1851).
The discovery of penicillin (1928). The founding of the Peace Corps (1961). The first Model T rolling off the assembly line (1908).
Ferdinand Magellan left Spain on his voyage around the world (1519). Michelangelo unveiled David in Florence (1504). Johann Guttenberg published the Bible (1452).
The Beatles recorded their first single, Love Me Do (1962).
A few September events changed the course of American history.
The Mayflower set sail (1620). The Continental Congress declared the United Colonies to be the United States (1776). The Treaty of Paris (1783), bringing an end to the Revolutionary War between the USA and Britain.
The Constitution was signed (1787) and the Bill of Rights passed (1791). President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (1862). Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court’s first woman justice, was appointed (1981).
Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner (1814).
All of these events happened in Septembers past and all of them influenced, in one way or another, who we became as citizens of the USA and of the world.
Sometimes a happy occasion can overlay a sad occasion. Not erase it from memory, certainly, but bring something new to the day: new people, new significance, new direction.
A new life, just beginning.
One September, I went to the wedding of two friends and colleagues, who’d been responsible for a major trend in our division of single people volunteering to share offices. It was a beautiful occasion, on a chartered boat in the bay at sunset. A nautical theme in blue and white, complete with buoy cushions and rope table runners. A 1950s swing band on a parquet dance floor, where sharp guys in sharp tuxedos danced with all takers.
(Those of us who weren’t even thought of in the 50s need to either try this at home beforehand or look around for somebody our dad’s age, my own dad excepted. There’s a good reason why he’s the musician.)
A few of us knew the history behind that setting and that day.
Years before, the bride’s 7-year-old brother had drowned in a tragic accident on that same day in September. She and her husband-to-be were considering several different dates and venues, until they realized maybe this was a way to honor him and bring comfort the family still needed.
Even thought it had happen many years before and 1000s of miles away, the bride always dreaded that day as it came around on the calendar every year. She’d been well into adulthood before she’d gone swimming or boating again.
The couple discussed their plans with the family and said that anyone who felt uncomfortable with the wedding date − including children who hadn’t even been born back then, and spouses who’d joined the family afterwards − could feel completely free to vote no on the idea and they’d stop everything.
All the usual wedding checkpoints were passed. The processional, the vows, the toast. The speeches, both hilarious and heartfelt. A medley of traditions to represent the interfaith marriage. A terrifyingly tall cake, defiant of gravity, decorated with near-blue, “salmon,” and white flowers.
However, it was one of the few weddings I’ve ever attended that the bride didn’t toss her bouquet to some hapless bridesmaid. Instead, she stood on the ship’s bow, and − as we all watched − tossed it into the bay.
The title of this post is from the song Time to Remember (lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt) from the musical The Fantasticks, which debuted on Broadway in 1960.