So Long, Summer

Monday Morning Musings

“By all these lovely tokens

September days are here,

With summer’s best of weather,

And autumn’s best of cheer.”

–Helen Hunt Jackson, “September”

Sunday morning, and I’m in the car. The windows are open to the cool breeze, the sun is shining brightly, and Bob Dylan is singing.

“When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right”

–Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”

And I think, “OK, Summer, just travel on then. Don’t think twice, it’s definitely all right–because this September morning is truly glorious.” It’s a beautiful morning and a beautiful day, and to quote another American classic, “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.”

Yes, I know that technically it is still summer. The autumnal equinox falls on September 23. But the sun comes up later now, and it sets earlier. The early morning bird chirps are giving way to the honking of geese as they fly in V formations across the clear, azure sky. (Were you wondering why they fly in a V? Here you go.)

And today is Labor Day in the U.S., which marks the unofficial end of summer. It is a time that many celebrate with barbecues, picnics, or a final day at the beach or pool. At the same time, people prepare to return to work or school. It is day that looks back to summer and forward to the fall, a combination of melancholy and excitement, a bipolar day.

Labor Day was intended to honor “the working man.” Never mind that women have always worked—and labored in ways no man can experience. Labor Day was first observed in 1882, when a New York City labor organization, the Central Labor Union, a branch of the Knights of Labor, held a parade there. Over the next few years, Labor Day holidays were celebrated elsewhere. In 1894, Labor Day became a federal holiday. In the summer of that year, President Grover Cleveland sent in US army troops to end the Pullman Strike, which had stopped the railways. At least 30 strikers were killed and more wounded in the ensuing violence. Within a week after the strike was so violently put down, Cleveland signed the legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday. The September date was chosen to distance the holiday from May 1 (International Workers Day), which was associated with the Haymarket Riot in Chicago (May 4, 1886) and protests by labor unions. (Here is a short article on Labor Day. And another.

School terms in the U.S. used to begin the day after Labor Day, although weirdly, many now begin in August. This is the first time in 37 years that my husband will not be entering his school on the day after Labor Day. In his former district, it is still the first day for students. As a public school teacher, my husband has also been a member of the teachers’ union. Yes, the union that our governor has said should get “a punch in the face.” Many Americans have forgotten that it is because of unions that we have child labor laws, eight-hour workdays, work breaks, and other benefits.

Labor Day is also the title of a book by Joyce Maynard made into a movie with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. It is both a coming-of-age story and a romance. If you read the book or see the movie, be prepared to dream of peach pie. Really. (Here’s the recipe used in the movie. I would use all butter for my crust.)

So what will I be doing today on Labor Day? Well, I’ll be working, of course. After all, I have deadlines to meet. But there will be time to eat some killer nachos and watch a movie with my husband, too. Perhaps I’ll bake a peach pie, as well. It’s a holiday. I will labor, but I won’t forget to enjoy the waning summer.

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28 thoughts on “So Long, Summer

  1. and… not to forget the Labour party in the UK, women going through labour pains, and finally labouring at our blogs 🙂 (Sorry, not being frivolous, just smiling at the post).
    Nice post.. Thanks..

  2. I enjoyed the ode to summer with the happy scenes and sound effects. It will be at least another month until Florida feels cool (make that cool-ish).

    As for the variations on the theme of Labor Day, thank you! You always have great wisdom and takeaways to share.

    And a message for your husband. When I first retired (and even now) I experienced withdrawal symptoms. And why not? For our entire lives we’ve gone to school, either as a student or teacher. It’s embedded in our DNA now.

    Enjoy your movie this evening. By the way, if you haven’t seen “Words and Pictures” on Netflix starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen, it’s worth your time.

    • Thanks, Marian. You always write such thoughtful comments.
      I don’t know if my husband will have withdrawal symptoms or not, but he’s been tutoring our son-in-law, so he’s still getting his teaching moments in. 🙂
      I’ve added the movie to my Netflix list.

  3. Yum, I love peaches just like that (without the skin). Helen Hunt Jackson and Rogers and Hammerstein all in the same post! I’m in heaven. Near where we used to live they do an outdoor pageant every year based on Jackson’s novel Ramona :). Re Labor Day, yes, I did come within one course of majoring in history in college!!!

    • We are kindred spirits, Luanne! (Please tell me you are also an Anne of Green Gables fan.) 🙂 I thought of majoring in English.

      I love ripe summer peaches. The ones you see in the stores the rest of the year just do not compare. I ended up making blueberry bars though instead yesterday because the peaches were too hard. Haha.

  4. For me, today is the first day that feels like summer might finally go and I’ll be glad because I live in Florida 😉 Thank you for the history lesson on labor and labor unions. Labor unions are no more perfect than the people who form them; indeed, without them, our lives would be much meaner.

  5. Yum! That peach pie sounds yum. Not something we have a lot over here but I might give it a whirl. I agree with you about the unions. We need a systems with checks and balances and ways of protecting the weak against the strong xx Ro

      • Yum! I’m currently working on trying to perfect my mother’s sponge cake. She makes the best sponge cake I’ve ever had. She adds some melted buttter and warm milk to hers and I wasn’t game to do that on the weekend but I noticed the difference so I’m going to chance it. Once I get it sorted, I’ll post the recipe. Peach crisp sounds great. xx Ro

      • I am definitely going to try making those blueberry bars. We must be coming into Blueberry season soon. I haven’t heard of Peach Crisp before and Googled a recipe and it seems a bit like apple crumble. Is that a fair comparison? I didn’t bake anything for my aunt’s visit yesterday because I just couldn’t see the logic in messing the place up again after all my effort and figured we’d probvably go out anyway. Felt a bit slack but I was able to produce the dress I wore as an 8 year old flower girl at her first wedding and Miss put it on. She’s so tiny that it looked like a billowing nightie on her. I’ll give it a wash and iron and I’ll take some photos and post them.

      • I think crisps and crumbles are probably similar–or possibly the same thing. I just use a basic recipe for a variety of fruits–peaches, berries, apples–whatever I have around. Amazing that you have the dress you wore as an 8 year old flower girl!

      • I’ve kept a few of my special dresses and I have some of my Mum’s dresses from her youth as well. You can understand why I have an over-crowding problem at my place!

  6. By the way, not that I’m wanting to rub salt in the wound but it'[s warming up here and I’m already feeling that spring in my step. I feel myself coming back to life as if awakening from a deep sleep. Yes, I know our Winter was wild and comparatively short but our tolerance of the cold is also low.

  7. Pingback: Memories of a General | Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

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