Another Labor Day is here and again I’m left to wonder, isn’t Mother’s Day enough? Isn’t it safe to assume that all mothers have endured labor? So why again do we honor women who’ve gone through labor?
I’m joking of course. But truly, taking a day off work to celebrate, well, work?
And in this economy, which is forecasted to worsen in 2012, I wonder what Labor Day means to those who’ve been unemployed for a year or more. I’m grateful to have a job at which I labor even if once in a while, under occasional stressful conditions, I have to remind myself that I am.
Me? I’m more of a Memorial Day, Veterans Day kind of guy. I didn’t serve in the armed forces, but Dad did and he was very proud of his service; he kept in touch with a handful of old jarheads with whom he’d served. Now that he’s gone, I’m more proud of him than ever, considering that, after his death, I found all his medals and citations in a footlocker in the basement. I wish only that he’d shared with me more of his life as a marine; but each time I asked and for reasons he never shared, he refused. I later learned from an older cousin that she recalled her grandmother reading a letter from her uncle Ignatius that, so the letter stated, had been written on the back of a fallen marine and that for several years, before I came along, he couldn’t stand the sight of ketchup on the kitchen table.
Dad was not a shy man, so I’m left to conclude that the nightmares he endured in the South Pacific were, in his mind, perhaps best left unshared. If they haunted his slumber time (and they did—occasionally some long-armed Japanese specter from Okinawa would drive Dad to wakefulness, startled to find his hands around my mother’s throat), well, why would he care to discuss them during the day, during those hours they were banished from their shadows by the reality of sunlight?
Dad’s generation thought the best way to heal was to bury their pain and never talk about their feelings. Women may say they desire a warm and caring guy; but the truth is the Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood types typically end up with the girl, even if the girl spends twenty years trying to fix him only to dump him in the end for not being the man she met. The warm and caring guy tends only to get passed over. If he’s fortunate, the warm and caring guy may once hear the words, “I’m sorry. I wish I could love you, but I can’t.”
But I digress.
Labor Day weekend is a three-day affair that, in Michigan, signifies the end of the summer season. The days become noticeably shorter, the evenings chillier; frost appears on my windshield in the morning that needs to be scraped. Eventually the leaves will turn color and drop from the trees. I’ll make a trip to a cider mill, the World Series will determine a champion, the Red Wings will take to the ice in pursuit of another Stanley Cup, and all too soon, the shortest, sweetest season will take a turn for the cold. On will come the furnace and out will come the flannel sheets, and one morning I’ll wake up to find snow to shovel from my driveway, and I’ll console myself that at least the cicada hornets are gone for another year.
These digressions—they must come from living alone.
Labor Day weekend will be a working weekend for me: Saturday morning, errands as usual, an afternoon lawn mowing, maybe an evening ballgame; Sunday morning, a writing session—five or six hours and between two and three thousand words. And Monday, the day I normally drag myself into the office to begin another work week, I’ll treat like just another Sunday: coffee, cigar, and another writing session. With any luck at all I can eclipse my next milestone: thirty-thousand words. Perhaps fifty-thousand words by year end and a completed first draft by next spring.
I tend not to give myself deadlines. It’s too depressing should I miss one. But I need to finish 500 Miles before the Mayan calendar runs out, just in case. It’s important I find out what happens to Alex Król. I know he’ll get the girl, and I know which girl it’ll be; but a lot can happen in the fifty-thousand words I envision before he gets said girl, and I expect more than a few surprises will spring up along the way, before I type “The End.”
Yes, Labor Day: It’s good to get away from work for an extra day to, well, fill it with more work.