Labor Day: when winter’s work begins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Let’s make one thing clear from the start: You can have Labor Day. All of it. The three-day weekend we just passed, the picnics, the return to so-called household normalcy.

As a holiday, as an event on the calendar, in the local psyche, you can have it all.

Labor Day weekend stinks.

Forget the historical foundations of such holidays. We’re talking about calendars and what they represent.

Memorial Day, just three months earlier, is the holiday for optimists, like myself. Summer lies ahead. Back when, it meant school was almost over. It meant baseball games, long blissful days of relative carefree living. Schedules? Making it to the bus stop on time? Not happening. The horizon was wide, the leaves and grass green and the sunsets late and getting later and grand plans were made.

The very phrase &uot;summer romance&uot; exists because of those weightless months. How many songs have the Beach Boys written about, &uot;It’s gettin’ to be October; I think of her, I wanna get closer&uot;? As I recall, not many.

Labor Day lurks like Darth Vadar stalking the horizon. School starts (think that’s a good day? Look at the photos on pages of this newspaper. The kids handle the day better than parents. Parents are out in force, camera at the ready to record the day. Parents remember their first day of school, before day care was a common experience. Today’s kids understand abandonment at a much earlier age. At the first day of school, kids are much better prepared for the trauma). Labor Day is when all the plans made at Memorial Day get measured at the checking stand. Was everything promised at Memorial Day accomplished by Labor Day? Of course not. Optimism means, inherently, making plans that can’t possibly be met. How many well-intentioned Memorial Day plans begin with the hypothesis, &uot;Well, this summer, I’m going to … (fill in the blank).&uot;

Labor Day is when reality kicks you in the head. The summer’s gone. Again, don’t look at the calendar and try to justify that summer has three more weeks. That’s a technicality. Summer’s over, baby.

And that’s just skimming the surface of the dreaded Labor Day.

Labor Day optimists, and there are many of you

(even some of my best friends are Labor Day optimists) claim this is the best part of the year. The days, and particularly the nights, get cooler. Football season is in full gear. Hunting season arrives. Fall festivals pop up like favorite family members long-forgotten. Sweaters can be retrieved from storage. Fireplaces can be used.

That’s the Labor Day optimist taking over the decision-making portion of the brain.

Labor Day signals the end of true optimism.

Winter. Cold, bleak, without purpose, gray, short days of winter. That’s what Labor Day portends.

Labor Day optimists claim the best day of the year is Dec. 22, the shortest day of the year. Come to think of it, they make a good point. In optimist-speak, that’s the last of the short days of daylight. Every day for the next six months is longer than the day before.

There’s some good sense to that, in an optimistic way of thinking.

Paul McFarlane is the editor of The Tidewater News. His e-mail is .