On paper, it’s a holiday that pays homage to the American labor movement. Nevertheless, I’d venture to say that most of us aren’t giving “labor” all that much thought on what is the unofficial ending of Summertime 2014. Summer’s “last gasp,” as it were, has mostly been about barbecues, beaches, and beer.
I’ve attended a fair share of Labor Day events through the years, and the differences between them and the month of May’s Memorial Day festivities was always stark. After all, one national holiday signaled a beginning and the other an ending—and an abrupt one at that. As a rule, beginnings are more celebratory than endings. Life is about both, I know, but Labor Day has the unenviable task of marking the end of a lot of good times for a lot of people; the gradual diminishing of daylight, too; and, from a school kid’s perspective, the start of yet another protracted educational slog.
Although I’m long removed from my formal educational odyssey, Labor Day—replete with the sun casting its signature autumnal shadows—always brings me back to my youth. There was no more melancholic time than this particular end. Well, to be technical, this rare, unwelcome, non-celebratory beginning. Yes, the school year commencing with carefree summer memories still seared on the brain—and vestiges, too, of the waning season’s hot weather—was difficult to stomach. From my perspective, there was no worse feeling than attending school in oppressive heat, which happened quite frequently in the month of September. Sans any air conditioning, school and high temperatures were about as depressing a one-two punch as one could imagine.
Despite preferring the cooler climes of fall in my advancing years, I still feel blue at this latest ending—one more summer in the books. It’s a reminder of time’s passage, I guess, and that—if you’re not there yet—you might have experienced more summers than you’ve got in the offing. In my Bronx high school, all boys were required to wear jackets and ties. We got to forgo both sartorial expressions, though, in the month of September. This was a “freakin’ bone” tossed our way in those days of yore. It was intended, perhaps, to slightly lessen the pain in what was post-Labor Day culture shock. Some things never change, but at least I don't have to attend high school orientation this coming week.