I am easing into a much better state of mind these days knowing that Labor Day is only a little over a month away. By mid August, I will have unclenched my molars and the color will begin to creep back into my upper lip. On September 6th, I will quietly slip upstairs to my bedroom, lock the door, slug down a several shots of “The
Doctor” and dance around naked with the Stray Cats to “Rock This Town”. I will awake on September 7th with a euphoric Labor Day Celebration hangover, and take a late afternoon drive along the beach I have been deprived of since Memorial Day. It is a Labor Day tradition.
Anyone who does not live in the summer tourist capitol of the entire planet simply cannot understand the meaning of Labor Day. It is the culmination of ten weeks of seething frustration and at times blinding rage directly related to the invasion of a gazillion camera carrying flip-flopping tourists, each one of which has a convoy of obnoxious offspring in tow. Hawaiian shirts, Rodney Dangerfield golfing pants, and strollers frighten me, to this day. For me, Labor Day is a glorious sprinkler system dousing a nasty fire in my living room, the heroic SWAT team rescuing me from an escalating hostage situation, my bridge to sanity.
My memories of Labor Day have changed throughout the years. There was a time when the horrors of school outweighed the loss of summer. Labor Day meant sacrificing my last day of freedom to go shopping for shoes after three months of running barefoot. It meant tossing and turning all night wondering if anyone would sit with me on the bus. It meant worrying that my new teacher would compare me to my “perfect” sister. Worst of all, the rules changed when we set our clocks back in October, and since our playtime was determined by daylight, we may have gained an hour of sleep, but we lost an hour of play.
Labor Day was also the harbinger of a string of holidays that any kid in their right mind looked forward to celebrating. Ghosts and goblins trucking home enough bags of Halloween candy to last until Thanksgiving are still vivid images in my mind, as are frosty pumpkins and huge piles of leaves to roll around in. But in my childhood, Labor Day meant Christmas was not as far away as it was the day after last Christmas. It made perfect sense to me. The countdown to Christmas began on Labor Day. It was tradition.
My friend had a mind boggling Labor Day tradition. We waitressed in her father’s restaurant at the beach, and after closing for the season, we would clean out the entire dining room. During the process of emptying out the pepper shakers, she would stuff some pepper up each of her nostrils. I have absolutely no idea of the significance of this, nor did my friend, but it made for an entertaining last day at work. It was no small wonder that any of the waitresses stuck it out all season, working with the two of us, but her father offered a $50.00 “bonus” to those that did. We actually considered it more of a reward to them for their outstanding level of endurance.
I remember standing on the sidewalk by the Goldenrod, eating the free candy kisses they gave us and waving goodbye to friends. It was a time when we knew the summer people who returned to their cottages year after year. Their children were our friends. As parents drove their overloaded cars back to the city for the winter, it was not unusual to see a tearstained face peeking over the beach chairs, and a waving hand reaching out in a plea for remembrance. Sadly, those days are gone. I am not ashamed to admit that I resent the “discovery” of our little piece of heaven, because we all have been robbed of tradition.
So, in honor of this most anticipated holiday, I will replenish my supply of Dr. Mc Gillicuddy, dust off my Stray Cats album, and write myself a note this year to remember to close my window shades. I will bide my time until
September 6th trying to figure out why we still insist on calling this holiday Labor Day. Isn’t the concept to celebrate NOT working? Shouldn’t it be called A Good Reason Not To Work Day, or Another Population Control Tool For Crazy Drivers Day? My own favorite nickname is TCTG Day, and I’ll leave it to you to figure that one out on your own.