I love autumn. I have always loved autumn. Autumn is new schoolbooks and old leaves and walking to school and making new friends and planning things. But I think I’m just talking about September. The gateway to autumn.
September begins the real new year. September settles like an old dog in front of a fire, it is comforting to watch. You wrap yourself up in September like no other month. September smells like rain through the trees. And if September were a person, it would be my Grandad.
Grandad’s birthday is September 3rd, hailing the start of the new year, the first birthday to happen after term started, the birthday to kick off the run of birthdays before Christmas.
The more I think about it, the more I realise a lot of the things I associate with my Grandad I associate with September. Or rather, a lot of my memories of my Grandad are to do with growing, with new-ness. I remember being dropped off at Nazareth House around the corner from my high school so that I could meet my friends and walk the rest of the way. He drove us all to school, me, Sophie, Joe, and Sam, even when we could have gotten there ourselves. We would listen to Capital FM. I think it was Capital. Or an MW channel where he would listen to men with crackly voices recount the football scores. I remember him dressed in his fleecy jacket and flatcap, taking our dog Pippa for walks in the park.
But mostly, there were conkers. Conkers collected by the kids on their way home from school, where Grandad would let them linger along the pavements on the way back to his car. He would park on the street with the most trees so that they could get as many conkers as they could. Conkers in plastic bags on the kitchen table, hundreds of conkers, smooth under the fingers. Bags of conkers that would develop a slight moist film of mould as we got further and further towards winter.
Autumn is my Grandad’s season. It always has been and always will be, and it’s strange that it takes him not being here for me to realise that.
I have really missed my Grandad this September. It’s strange. Well, it’s probably not strange. It just hits me every so often. When I chatted to Joe and Sam about starting back at school. When me and Sophie took the dog for a walk on the weekend. When a conker fell out of a tree as I was walking home the other day and hit me on the shoulder. I remember my Grandad and I feel guilty, a bit, because I should have made more of an effort, should still make more of an effort. My Grandad was so full of love for us.
My favourite month used to be December, when the cold had settled and the light had gone and there seemed to be no end to winter and it was fatalistically beautiful. But now I think it’s September. The first chill of autumn, the evenings drawing in, the colours of the world changing day by day, the crunch of the leaves under boots, the new pencil cases, new starts. And the conkers gathering along the side of every road, between the roots of every tree, in drains and in driveways and in pockets of coats.
I’ll miss you.