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.