The first weekend in September is usually our holiday in the States called Labor Day. I think it has to do with labor unions but I don't know how they got their own holiday. Why the government honors it when it doesn't even give some other great things their due time off is a mystery to me. But hey, it's a holiday and I'll take it with pleasure even if I'm not too sure about labor unions. Not to be hypocritical, but a day off is a day off.
Labor Day as a kid always meant to me: 1) My parents' anniversary weekend, so buy a card and a corsage and be nice 2) the last day people were supposed to wear white shoes because it's Fall and Winter time now 3) School is going to start the minute you have this last day off, so you'd better have your school supplies already 4) It's your last chance to go to the beach but there'll be a long line of campers coming home, so either come late or come early, not at 5 PM.
Does it seem ironic that the way we celebrate labor is to take a day off? And secondly, that the way we take time off makes a lot of work for ourselves? Why I celebrate Labor Day with anything laborious is a mystery to me now as an adult. Why couldn't we all just enjoy doing nothing except swinging in our lawn gliders? Why do we make this complication of actions and activities that are designed to “restore” us somehow before the returning crush of everyday life, ie., the school regimes?
Specifically, camping before school starts. You have to go to the basement and survey where your gear might be. Then you determine the best path across the laundry piles to it. Stepping on the darks but around the whites you drag out 2 coolers, the folding chairs, a tent or 2 or 3 depending on the configuration of the family. Then you find the stove, the propane tank, the nestled pans, the scrub brushes and the dish washing tubs so we can have fun doing dishes outside in the elements! You need the beach towels, bath towels (don't forget the quarters for the showers if they're that kind), sleeping bags and bug spray and sun screen and band aids for small emergencies and prayer for the bigger ones. We are GOING TO HAVE FUN, DOGGONE IT! And remember the canopy in case it rains.
Mindful of the new routine beginning on their return home, a Good Mother will also have the kids school backpacks ready for the first day and the first day outfits neatly set aside, and possibly have ironed her husband's shirt for the Tuesday after Labor Day. Certainly you want to have a clean kitchen to come home to. And the laundry put away to be ready for the next week. Oh, my. It would be nice to walk back into a vacuumed house, too. Let's make it nice so we'll be glad to come home to it. Make those beds!
Now, load the car and trailer. Pack the cooler with the frozen taco seasoned meat and spaghetti sauce you prepared. Have car snacks ready. Get the sunglasses, books, cards, magazines and games. Don't forget your flip-flops and quarters for the shower-if they're that kind.
And we're off! Why does it seem like such a Grand Escape, almost as if we're doing something naughty, to run away for a few days just because we can't stand the idea that summer as we know it is ending. Summer isn't really ending; the official change isn't until September 22, the Autumnal Equinox. And our weather isn't going to suddenly turn nasty: some of our warmest, sunniest days are in the glorious Fall. I suspect that our rush to labor over vacationing on Labor Day is our resistance to the schedule we know will follow: we will have to be 'early to bed and early to rise' after this weekend and we can't stand to think of it so we are going to squeeze every drop out of vacation time! It's our last ditch effort to repress the inevitable.
And we come home with sand in our shoes, crawdads in a bucket, stinky socks—do they go in with the dark pile or the whites now—and a half eaten bag of hot dogs and marshmallows that are only a little sandy. Plus bags of dirty clothes (remember to check the pockets for quarters), the camp stove to wash, sleeping bags to air out, a trailer to wipe down, swim suits, damp towels, and nesting pans to put away. And magazines and books you didn't read while camping because you were watching the kids in the water or trying to cook over a fire pit.
But don't you just love the smell of the camp fire that lingers in your sweatshirt? Take a deep whiff again. Somehow it combines the smell of the fresh air and the dark night and the burning embers and the roasted hot dogs and the tall pines scent deeply embedded in the cotton knit hoody. You can almost hear the murmur of chatting around the fire, the giggles from kids put to bed in the tent, the frogs and crickets making their night sounds. Breathe deeply the last days of summer.