What Does Labor Day Mean to You?

Monday, September 7, 2015

What does Labor Day mean to you?  I would bet that most young people don't even know the meaning or origin of the holiday.  Yet.....almost everyone has some definite feelings about it, feelings I'd wager have nothing to do with the holiday's meaning at all.

As most of my followers know, I grew up summering on Saratoga Lake.  When I was thirteen, my folks bought a small camp there and made it our year round home.  From that year on, Labor Day took on a new meaning for me.  No longer did it mark the end of our summer at the lake.  My dad loved the lake.  He loved it so much, he'd never leave it.  We joked that he was afraid that if he'd leave, someone would pull the plug and drain it.  In that love affair, my dad felt some sense of proprietorship over the lake.  In his heart, it was his lake.  So for him (and maybe my mom and I), Labor Day meant that all the seasonal visitors with their fast boats and loud jet skis would go back to their homes until next Memorial Day and leave the lake once again in peace.  Every Labor Day weekend my mom would cook up a feast.  We would host grandparents, aunts and uncles, and come evening, we'd sit and watch the steady stream of traffic pass.  We'd watch the summer crowd return home and return the lake to the year-round residents.  There was nothing bittersweet about it...it was a day my dad loved.
As I grew older and we had kids, Labor Day became the day that marked the end of summer vacation.  It marked the beginning of a new school year and all the excitement and apprehension that comes with that.  I'm pretty sure that for kids, Labor Day is seen as a sad holiday, maybe not so much for parents.  Time evolves and circumstances change.  Once retired Labor Day, like other holidays that offer a day off from work,  seem less exciting.  They're a day with no mail when the banks are closed, but in no way as significant as they were in the past.  Most of my life my parents hosted barbecues on holidays.  After all, we had the perfect venue.  Over time, people passed, and eventually my dad passed and my mom sold our home on the lake.  Traditions changed.  Barbeques in a backyard in the suburbs aren't the same as they are at the lake.  A party with 5 is just not the same as a party of 10 or 12.  Having a piece of the family missing, having several pieces of the family missing, dampens the spirit and takes away the party atmosphere.  What was once a significant holiday is now just another day.
 And while Labor Day has lost its significance for me, it still represents the end of summer, the beginning of autumn.  It represents a change in the season....from a season of growth to a season of rest.  It's a transition from a season of activity and busyness to a season that is slower paced and more serene.  John and I have never been much for traveling.  Our typical summer might consist of one short getaway, maybe 3 days, to the east coast.  But we enjoy day trips and especially since starting my blog we've enjoyed a number of them.  This summer was different......John's mom's diagnosis gave summer a new meaning.  Our day trips were few and far between.  Except for a short trip to Newport with Laura and family in July, we didn't do any traveling.   In fact, I'm grateful Laura suggested that getaway....it was the bright spot in an otherwise difficult and sad summer.  With the passing of John's mom, the end of summer takes on a new meaning for us.  We have finished an era - one where John was the oldest child to an era where John is the oldest in his family.  We have ended a season of care-taking, praying and cherished last moments and have entered a season of grief and gratefulness for a life well lived, yet another void in family gatherings now exists.  Life is marked in seasons.....seasons that bring about change. Life depends on how we embrace that change.  Sometimes those seasons come with sadness and regret and others come with joyous anticipation.  No matter how you feel about the approaching season that is marked by the holiday known as Labor Day.....I hope you take a moment to ponder the joys you've experienced this past season, be thankful for those blessings and look ahead at the oncoming season as an opportunity to let go of the past disappointments, make new memories, live each day with gratitude and be optimistic about today.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life!  Happy Labor Day!

FYI - According to Wikipedia: Labor Day in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.  And according to "Time for Kids":
A Holiday for Workers
A New York City carpenter named Peter McGuire is credited for coming up with the idea for Labor Day. In 1872, after working many long hours under poor conditions, McGuire rallied 100,000 workers to go on strike. The workers marched through the streets of New York City, demanding a better work environment.
McGuire spent a decade fighting for worker's rights. In 1882, he proposed the idea to create a special holiday for workers. On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 workers hit the streets of New York City for the first ever Labor Day parade. Two years later the celebration was moved to the first Monday in September. And in 1894, Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday.

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