I could see the confusion on the four-year-old child’s face as he asked again, “But what IS Labor Day?” He’d been to see his new classroom and meet his new teachers. He had his new school clothes and backpack. He’d been bored for several weeks, and now his parents were trying to explain why he had to wait until after Labor Day to go to school. It just didn’t make sense.
As I think about it myself, I’m not sure it makes sense to me, either. Labor Day weekend has become the last hurrah of the summer rather than a meaningful holiday. Usually the weather is nice enough to take a little trip, do some camping, or at least enjoy a backyard barbecue or a free concert in the park.
I ate my lunch at a public park above the harbor on Friday. Tourists were everywhere! Streets and sidewalks were literally obliterated by masses of people, and I could hear ferry agents on the public address speakers asking pedestrians to move so vehicles could get off the ferry. The park was full of couples and families posing for photographs of themselves with three islands and hundreds of boats in the background. I became photographer and tourist information specialist between bites of my lunch.
From the bags they set down while sitting on benches to finish ice cream cones, it looked like most of the visitors were spending a little money; and that’s a good thing. Still, I find it ironical that a holiday weekend called “Labor Day” began with a Friday furlough for most county employees, and a national report of zero job growth in August.
So what should his parents say to the little boy who can’t understand why he has to wait until after Labor Day to go to school? Maybe it is this: Even when you know “why” you still have to figure out “what’s next.” And perhaps, just for this one holiday weekend, “what’s next” can be to breathe deeply, quit looking for reasons or to place blame, and just enjoy the last hurrah of summer.