Here we are, Labor Day weekend already. That thought occurred to me mid-week. And I wondered what it actually means to me. I think the only answer is that Summer is over. And I’m OK with that.
Before my time Labor Day was a celebration of the American worker. Perhaps this went on in other areas, but growing up in a “white collar” family and neighborhood, Labor Day was just another holiday.
In my youth Labor Day meant the start of school. I never liked school all that well so the Labor Day weekend always cast a pall over my life, a looming sense of dread of what was coming on Tuesday. For Tuesday would be the day for me to turn myself in and submit to yet another year of classroom drudgery wherein another matronly old woman would take practical control of my life. For whatever reason there were no attractive, fun young teachers in 1960’s Fort Wayne, only battle-scarred veterans of the classroom who had likely covered FDR’s New Deal in current events.
I am not sure what happened in the intervening years but most kids start school a good three (if not four) weeks before Labor Day. For them, August is no longer part of summer, which is something hard for me to fathom. Also hard to fathom is that the dread of summer coming to a close takes hold of today’s kids in mid July. It just doesn’t seem right. Isn’t that what Labor Day is supposed to be for?
August used to be “the dog days of summer”, the time when it got hot and stayed that way, and we kids were shooed out of our houses and encouraged to find our own fun in our neighborhoods of brown grass and hot asphalt. The organized activities like Wildcat baseball were over and we were on our own. Thank goodness for our bikes and those mothers who would set cold drinks out for us from time to time.
As I got into my adolescence in the early 1970’s, Labor Day weekend came to mean the great Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Festival in Auburn, Indiana, about thirty miles north of my home in Fort Wayne. Auburn was the headquarters of the company that went bust during the Depression after building some of the most elegant and sought-after cars of their era. Auburn sort of set the template for so many old car events that have been created since.
Today I live much farther away and don’t have the free time that I once did. Which sounds funny coming from an “empty-nester”. Let’s just say that I would rather spend the day with my Mrs. in some activity that we would both enjoy. And besides, I live in a world where fascinating old cars are available at the click of a mouse whenever I am in a mood to look at them. Yes, I enjoy going back every few years but it is no longer the “must-see” that it once was for me.
Today I look forward to the start of autumn, which has become my favorite season of the year. I don’t relish the heat and humidity that we end our summers with here in the midwest. I find the cooler, crisp air rejuvenating and am not fighting “vacation brain” when I go to the office every day.
Perhaps this is a carryover from the lazy summers of my youth but I have difficulty being focused and productive this time of year. In my mind, summer is a time for reading books, watching TV and eating fresh corn on the cob. Yes, I realize that we all live in climate-controlled comfort all summer but the mentality associated with June, July and August are awfully hard to break.
The “vacation brain” brings bad habits like getting in to work a little late in the mornings and leaving a little early in the afternoons. This is the blessing and the curse of self-employment. I have control of my hours, but when I work fewer of them there is just more to do when I am there (and less money to spend when I am not).
Vacation Brain also makes it almost impossible to keep from pulling into every Dairy Queen I drive past. I know that DQ will not make anyone’s list of great ice cream (least of all mine) but it is just so . . . summer. So it is a good thing that the start of fall brings some fresh discipline.
Our calendar presents many opportunities for a “fresh start”. January first is the granddaddy of those days and the beginning of spring is another. But the Tuesday after Labor Day is another big one for me. Tuesday will not bring a change of season, a change of our clocks or any other change that will be formally enforced by any authority in my life. It will, however, bring as much change for me as any of those more official events, perhaps more of one.
So in my book, we have reached the end of Summer and the unofficial beginning of Fall. And I am ready.