Are you kidding? Labor Day? Already? How the hell did that happen? Didn’t we just scrape down the Weber for the first summer barbecue on Memorial Day? Wasn’t that like a week ago?
No matter. The kids are back in school. Every team in the NFL has legitimate playoff hopes. The trees are turning colors. Detroit is rolling out their new pieces of iron. Time to celebrate. Go out and party hearty everyone, like we’re getting a day off of work to celebrate what it is we do for a living. Because that’s what this day is really about.
Labor Day is also the seasonal marker between summer and autumn. The day that acts as barrier between coolers full of iced cans of PBR and icy winds swooping down from Manitoba. When we stow the swimsuits and flip-flops and pull out the parkas and galoshes. Storms go up, screens come down. The bright yin slowly changes into the dark yang.
It’s when watermelons get carted off the floor of the grocery store behind those big black plastic flappy things and out comes the squash. When we roll up the garden hose and check the exhaust hose on the snow blower. Verdant shades of green are replaced by the orange and black of Halloween.
It will never be mistaken for the king of holidays — more like a wandering minstrel on a discount donkey, blissfully unshackled to any official duties required of royalty. No proscribed traditions to uphold, and no pumpkins or fir trees to kill. No bunnies or turkeys or Cupid mascots to venerate. No flags or fireworks or dead presidents or foreign wars to remember. It’s a feets up, shoes off, potato chip and dip kind of day.
And as a holiday, it gets little to no respect. Like a gym teacher substituting for an advanced honors biology class. Or an usher at a Saturday afternoon pre-school screening of a “Frozen” sing-along. An accountant in a biker bar. Artichokes at a cookout.
The name is definitely part of the problem — Labor Day. Kind of a bummer, when you think about it. After all, hard labor is a punishment and any woman who has gone through childbirth is not going to wax ecstatic either. So unsexy, it should be wearing support hose. The people at Hallmark will never make a penny off the first Monday in September.
But don’t blow it off because this holiday is a gift for everyone: from the masters of the stock market to the stock clerks at the corner market. Equally to be enjoyed by the wizards of Wall Street and the folks who shovel blizzards off of Main Street. For the blue-collars and the white collars and the diamond collars and the no collars and the studded dog collars.
Just one day off to relax. To sleep late and maybe meet up with friends and family for one last warm weather blow out, and then again, maybe not. Do it up good or do nothing. Because this holiday is about the true American heroes. The ones who keep democracy alive and growing and stable. Who keep their heads down and continue to move forward trying to carve out a living in this crazy world. You know — you and me.
Okay. Mostly you. Happy Labor Day everybody.
Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin.