Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Ah...Labor Day.

A day where everyone (except for people who work at a certain mega-million dollar petstore chain) can sit back and roast weinies on the barbeque.

I have many memories of this day.

I remember visiting my Nan's house on this day. I remember that we'd have a barbeque, with burgers and hot dogs and baked beans and potato salad. The menfolk would spend the day watching sports (any sport, so long as it featured a Philadelphia team) - until it was time to cook. Then they argued over who would man the grill, and how well the burgers should be cooked, and how much cheese to put on. They argued over whether or not it was better to serve hot dogs charred to brickette consistancy, and if they should throw on some potatoes wrapped in reynold's wrap (even though we already had potato salad). The womenfolk would putter in the kitchen, trying to get their own dishes done to perfection, if only to gloat about how easy it was to prepare later. Then they would yell at their men to come in and give them a hand, or to be a taste-tester, or to watch whatever screaming child had hurt himself/herself.

My dad's family gets things done by yelling. Loudly.

I remember sitting down with my paper plate that had too much food on it. I remember unwrapping my potato from the shiny foil surrounding it - only to eat half of it, and give the rest of it to whoever's dog happened to sniffing around.

I remember watching the birds all flock to my Nan's neighbor's birdfeeders - she had at least six feeders in her yard, along with a great many yard decorations that fluttered in the wind. Nan's neighbor was an elderly woman who seemed to get great pleasure out of giving us kids unholy amounts of candy.

It was stale candy, but hey. I was thrilled anyways.

Mrs. Fae was her name, and I thought she was entirely beautiful. In an old, wrinkly sort of way, of course. She smelled like a cross between formaldehyde and gardenias, and had the prettiest hydrangeas on the block. She said that she used to put a few nails in the ground near the bushes, and that's what made them that brilliant blue hue.

Anyways, her husband had died some years previous to my birth, so I had never met him. I'm told he was a nice man, just like I've been told my Nan's husband was nice.

Pop-pop died of colon cancer a few weeks before I was born. He was the type of man whose life story was so great it could have been published and become a best-seller.

I don't think Nan ever really recovered from his death - there was always an air of sadness about her that I never quite got until I was old enough to realize how much she loved my Pop-pop. She now has Alzheimer's disease, and often wakes up during the night looking for him.

I cannot possibly even begin to imagine her heartbreak.

All of this, of course, completely passed by me as a child. Usually a few of my cousins would get some sort of sport going (there were twenty-something of us, so it was feasible), and I'd wind up injuring myself somehow. Klutziness and projectiles apparently don't mix well.

So, I usually stayed out of the games and read a book, or talked to a few of the aunts or uncles. I watched as my cousins grew up and my aunts and uncles greyed. I watched as various pets passed away, as did Mrs. Fae. Her children now own her home, and the hydrangeas aren't nearly as pretty as they were twenty years ago.

Labor day was never about a day off of work. It wasn't about some governmental fuckup that resulted in a few deaths during the Pullman strike in 1894.

No. Labor day was always about hydrangea bushes, stale candy, noisy relatives and Philadelphia sports. It was about foil-wrapped potatoes, dogs, and getting hit in the head with a football.

That was Labor day to me. We don't get together that much anymore - Nan's in a nursing home, and so the house in Philadelphia hasn't been in use for some time now. Everyone kind of goes their own separate ways, celebrating Labor day with their own families (Nan usually spends Labor day with my uncle).

However, whenever someone mentions Labor day to me, I can still smell the hot dogs burning on the grill and hear my Uncles screaming at the television.

Happy Labor day ya'll!

2 comments:

  1. Alright, no fair you made me cry. Memories are powerful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. oy...I didn't mean to make anyone cry....

    ReplyDelete

Because I'm needy.