The advent of autumn


artist's book

Artist’s book, Conversation with May

The autumn season is one I have always welcomed.  Yet, it is bittersweet for me, as it is in my bones to remember my childhood at this time of year.  I remember the start of school – pulling out the wool school uniform (heavy and itchy, buying the new, brown and white saddle shoes and penny loafers.  I remember walking to school alone at a young age. It was not unusual for me to talk aloud to myself or my guardian angel who sat on my right shoulder and was a girl, of course.  I remember still – to this day – that is was the best feeling – the wind blowing my hair across my face, the cardigan sweater buttoned all the way to the top keeping me snug. I looked forward to lunch which my mother religiously packed every day – Lebanon bologna on white bread, a small bag of Wise potato chips, a Tastykake Cremie – and I carried it in a brown paper bag along with my oilcloth to place over my desk, where we ate in our classrooms with our teacher – Sr. Rosaline or Sr. Bernadette…So, clutching my book bag I left home every morning with excitement and fear mixed together, as I stepped away from the world my parents had so lovingly created for me.

My parents were the first generation of Americans whose parents and some siblings were born in Italy or Czechoslovakia.  They never finished high-school because they were needed by their parents to work in the Pennsylvania mills. Working at least 10 hour days at ages 13 and 15, they supported their large Catholic families. In my father’s home of fifteen children, only the oldest and youngest sons were “allowed” to go to college – and they did, both on sports scholarships to Catholic universities.  My parents worked in the mills until the day they retired despite the changing times and their intellectual brilliance.  It was not until I reached my 20’s that I realized how much they sacrificed for their daughters.  We were expected to go to college – all three girls.  And we did, and then some.

So, I find during this advent of autumn that it is no surprise I live where I have been living for 30 years – that I married, raised our children, and work here, in this small town of ____. It is a community where many immigrants struggle and sacrifice as did my parents, in order to give their children much more than they will ever have themselves.  They want what my parents wanted for us – a good education to secure success.  When the fees for this and that come home in the backpacks (as they soon will), I often wonder at the toll this takes in the private lives of these families.  Yet sacrifice is what they do for their children.  Times have indeed changed, but not where it matters.

This essay, written for the library where I worked, was originally published in 1998 under “Notes From Your Children’s Librarian” and has been re-edited for this posting.

“Great Time,” a poem by May Sarton written in 1929.

During a decade of my life, I found the journals of May Sarton to be a great inspiration for my art.  As we so often do, we find ourselves in a “conversation” with a writer.  This artist’s book was a small tribute to such a conversation.  The paper is linen fiber imbedded with leaves, pulled in a Japanese style of papermaking; pencil, acrylic paint, calligraphy, collage and bookbinding are all by the artist. cp.


The start of the school year – at least in public schools – begins next week for teachers, and the following week.  Because of my own attachments to autumn this earlier “beginnings” pains me.  One always wants those sweet and dear experiences to remain for the younger generations…I suppose this is nostalgia.  The students walking to and from school accompanied by the hum of the cicadas and warm, late summer breezes are creating their own memories.  I wish for all of them the love of learning and joy in friendship for this new year!

August 2012



2 Responses to “The advent of autumn”

  1. Sally Says:

    Ah, lovely. I can hear the cicadas right now and am also thinking of returning to school once again. There are changes in how the air feels, and some fallen leaves are appearing on the porch. New books, new clothes, new possibilities.


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