Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Day of the Year

Well, folks, my favourite day of the year is almost upon us! Yes, I’ll confess: I like Labour Day better than any other statutory holiday. When I was very little it would have been eclipsed by Christmas and Easter (and Halloween and my birthday, neither of which are stats but should be), but not by much, and I didn’t have to be very old before Labour Day came to the fore.

As my father was a professor, our family life always revolved around the academic calendar. Labour Day meant Daddy back after a summer of working away from home. Labour Day meant a return to order and routine, and I’ve always been such a cliché little Virgo. Love the order and routine.

*NERD ALERT* Once in school myself, I discovered that I loved the place. Thanks to a fairly strict mom, I was well-behaved (at least outside the home!) and I was eager and interested and not entirely stupid, so teachers tended to like me. I anticipated with excitement the first day of school every one of the 17 years I attended one.

Summers to me always meant horrible hay fever, as well, although that has mitigated a great deal over the years. The antihistamine I took for it as a child, however, was nectar of the gods. It came in a big dark-brown bottle. The neck was encrusted with the sugar the medicine was loaded with. The liquid was the colour of the Caribbean Sea. I can’t describe the flavour, though it happily remains in my sense-memory. Unbeknownst to my mother, I used to go into the pantry and help myself to a spoonful pretty much every time I sneezed. Or maybe she did beknow it and just enjoyed how sleepy it must have made me.

Our family did not go away anywhere for summer vacations, except camping, which I despised. So unlike many people, going away was not a pleasure I ever associated with summer. I’m not sure whether the reason our parents did not take us away on holidays was a financial thing or just sheer horror at the prospect of having to deal with four endlessly bickering princesses somewhere away from home. Although I could totally understand the latter explanation, that surely can’t have been it because the one major trip we did take was a driving expedition all the way across the country where they were stuck with us in a station wagon or tent trailer 24 hours a day.

By the time I was a teen, my loathing of summer was well underway. Then, as now, I was of the opinion that temperatures above 22 degrees Celsius are unfit for human habitation (although in those days it would have been 74 degrees Fahrenheit). I hate insects of all kinds, especially those so prevalent in the summer that bite and sting.

Most of us mourn the day when we lose the magic of Christmas, when Santa is exposed and cynicism starts kicking in. I mourned terribly the loss of the magic of Labour Day when I had very small children. I watched the bigger kids in the neighbourhood march off to school the next day, while my squalling darlings remained in my house, exuding things from every orifice and chanting their mantra of “mommymommymommymommymommymommy” every hour they were awake. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. LOVED my babies. But those first few years of motherhood are brutal and anyone who says otherwise is lying through her teeth.)

However, of course they eventually joined the marchers to school. And then they grew up and didn’t go to school anymore, and once again there was no particular meaning to Labour Day. But I still love it. I love going out on a late-August day that is warm and sunny, but the quality of light, the angle of the sun in the sky, promises autumn is on its way. I love waking up at 3 a.m. feeling chilled and pulling up that extra blanket. Whether you are operating on the academic calendar or not, there’s something about Labour Day that makes everyone sort of settle down. We’re heading back to the time of order and routine. Back to sweaters and eiderdowns and the only annoying insect being the housefly.

Of course, we’ve got to get through leatherjacket (crane fly) season first. Don’t you just hate those things?

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