Labor Day bookends with Memorial Day as reversed signposts of summer; one says hello, the other waves bye-bye.
Poor Labor Day — the most underrated and unheralded of American holidays. It slides by almost as an afterthought in a distracted mix of resignation and dread, without a single aisle at Walgreen’s dedicated to its approach.
There are no explosions in the sky or specialized fowl searing, pastel egg hunting, leprechaun poking or elaborately festooned shrubbery act as its escort. Sometimes there are organized parades, maybe a wistful swing into a swimming hole or a last ride with the top down to a disorganized picnic.
Labor Day is basically the final chance to finish off that package of cheddar Polish dogs that fell behind the crisper bin to languish at the bottom of the fridge since May. It means it’s time to put the screens in storage, throw some antifreeze in your radiator and choose a hole to store your nuts, you squirrel.
Looked upon with disdain by all the big time fancy holidays, Labor Day has had to fight for respect since 1894. It’s too often confused with its near namesake Arbor Day, and locked in mortal combat for September celebratory supremacy with Talk Like a Pirate Day (two weeks later on the 19th). It’s just a well-worn pair of denims in a closet full of red, white and blue sequined satin. A khaki knapsack on a shelf of Louis Vuitton toiletry kits.
One strike against Labor Day is its bookend status with Memorial Day as reversed signposts of summer; one shakes hands hello, the other waves bye-bye. As they say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming” and this time they mean it. It is the harbinger of autumn and along with it, the increasing darkness. Like rooting against light.
But it’s a necessary seasonal marker without which schools wouldn’t know when to start, baseball would go on for even more forever and football refs would blow whistles but no helmeted behemoths would jog onto the gridiron. And kids would be forced to carve heirloom tomatoes for Halloween, which is just plain wrong.
As is a world where pumpkin spice does not replace lemon zest in the storerooms of coffee shops. Labor Day is the holiday spacer, without which there would be an extended blank spot and absolutely no reason to buy supermarket potato salad from the 4th of July to Halloween.
To be fair, another part of the problem is the name. Labor Day just sounds so… laborious. Like it’s going to require exertion, which no one wants to hear from a holiday; and all women who have given birth certainly cast it a dubious glance.
Perhaps we should hold a contest to rename it: Laborless Day. Labor Free Day. Freedom From Work Day. Indolence Day. Screw the Bosses Day. One Less Day of Living Day to Day Day.
We mustn’t forget the meaning of the holiday. On the first Monday of September we get to take a whole day off to honor that tiny segment of society that actually works for a living. So it’s not for everyone. Obviously those poor unfortunates employed in the world of politics are exempt.
Labor Day is a testament to all those who sweated before us fighting for our rights, and to those who will sweat after us fighting for their children’s rights. And each and every one of us in between. So, long live Labor Day, and long live the American worker. Enjoy your day.