12:22 p.m. Happy Labor Day! Happy indeed, if you're able to labor. Nothing could be worse -- or more depressing -- if for whatever reasons, you're not able to work.
Today, in 1666, the great fire of London was extinguished. Thank God for the laborers, eh? The firemen, of course, and the volunteers, but also the ordinary people who didn't think they could throw even one more backbreaking bucket of river sludge at the raging flames, but they leaned in and did it anyway. They had a job and they did it, and we are all the better for it.
Including, and especially another famous Londoner, a poor miserable sot who isn't really able to work these days, even though he so desperately wants to. He was visiting here in Hollywood last week, asking people to take him seriously, to let him prove himself, to give him a job, or just call him, please. He wants to be a filmmaker, and will we let him? Call me "Mr. Windsor" he commands, or does he plead? Please.
Labor Day has always been a bittersweet holiday for those whose summer is at an end and whose labor is just about to begin. I never celebrate Memorial Day at the end of May without thinking ahead to its sober twin at the beginning of September. Beginnings and ends -- the two great bookends of the summer.
On Memorial Day I used to march in parades with my school Brownie Troop, ribbon-bedecked and speckled with white shoe polish, behind the raucous band, waving and enjoying the odd feeling of walking someplace you're never supposed to walk -- right down the middle of the street. I pretended to be as happy as everyone else, but I was stomping on thin ice in the middle of the frozen lake and I knew it. I was actually waving good bye. So, once Labor Day came back around, I always stayed quiet and pretended to mourn along with the rest of my tanned and band-aided friends that summer was over, but secretly, I was overjoyed.
You see, one of the big miseries of my life-as-a-kid had always been that I'd never, ever been on vacation or gone anywhere for the summer. Once school was out, I was totally on my own. I only lived one small state away from the shore, yet I had never even laid eyes on the ocean until I was a teenager. Cars were not that plentiful in my family, let alone a stable, sober adult to drive one. Cousins, of which I had plenty, would flee. Friends, ditto.
All I had to look forward to were rippled-edged postcards from Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, and sometimes as a special treat, stale tubes of white taffy from Wildwood-by-the-Sea in translucent striped sticky paper that you always ended up chewing by mistake.
Bitter? Not really. Not if you know how to spit it out. How can I be bitter about summers long past? What would be the point? Nobody gets exactly what they want, ever. So you make do with whatever you have at hand, right?
So. I would spend the summer by making do. Playing store on my front stoop, filling up jelly jars with weeds and bugs, and then trying to sell the stuff to passersby on the street. (Sort of like what I'm doing here, come to think of it.)
Gee. That's depressing.
So that's what I've been doing all summer. Haven't made a lousy dime, either. Thank God it's Labor Day. I suppose.
Now, I will take -- if not a vacation -- a little break. Thanks for the postcards and the delicious taffy. Must clean out my jars.
email Street Mail Shadow Lawn Press archives
yesterday September tomorrow
all verbiage © Nancy Hayfield Birnes