Honor America's working folks on Labor Day

September 4, 2011

Labor Day weekend is a special time around here and other parts of the country that entertain summer visitors. It can mean that last seasonal celebration with picnics and outdoor and beach activities among family and friends. Some areas with year-round residents will kiss summer goodbye with a deep, well-deserved sigh.

Some folks will take to the stores for those big sales, loading up the car with clothing and merchandise to propel them into autumn. Other people will pack up that kid who has now turned into a college-bound freshman. They will drive to the ivy-covered halls of higher learning, shocked and amazed that an institution really wants to put up with someone who still leaves the door to the house open and the gas tank on empty and owns a wallet inhabited by moths.

And many households will anticipate that first day of school for elementary kidlets waiting at bus stops with pink backpacks and brand-new shoes.

As they say, with the Labor Day holiday, summer is finally over.

Around here, the beach grasses will still sway and perform their daily ballet. The sand will still carry footprints and memories of laughter in the surf and later on young people arm in arm deep into their summer romance. Autumn will come slowly, teasing us with warm, sunny days, but we know the sun is just messing with us, daring us to take that sweater off and turn our heads skyward.

The evenings will slip in with cool breezes and sudden sunsets. Those sunsets are a different signal from Mother Nature; they will turn brilliant fire red, maybe even orange; often, though, they carry an undercoat of deep purple and ultramarine blue. Stars will shine hot white late into the night.

Photographs of the children chasing waves and kites, young people toasting their freedom, adults lounging around the barbecue and someone who fell asleep in the hammock when he was supposed to be cleaning out the garage will be stored for reminiscing during a snowy winter day.

There are a lot of images to contemplate for Labor Day. And this weekend carries a special end to a great many things and at the same time a special beginning for other things. As we close one door, another door seems to open.

But through all the hoopla, the sighing, the business, there is one thing we must keep out in front and never lose our focus from; this is an America holiday that celebrates the American worker.

The first Monday in September, as any informational outlet will tell you, is dedicated to a yearly national tribute to the contributions those workers have made to the strength and prosperity of this country.

Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in the manufacturing area as more and more jobs are outsourced. The unemployment rate in the country is skyrocketing. More hardworking folks are having a difficult time making ends meet. But we know that over a hundred years ago this holiday was earmarked as a workingman’s day. It doesn’t matter who takes credit for this, as it is with so many holidays, the exact origin sometimes needs to be shared by history. In 1894, Congress passed the act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. There are very few parades today, which were originally intended as a way to honor these men and women. And there aren’t many speeches, as was originally intended. Instead, we come to rely on media and politicians to take advantage of the opening.

It is appropriate, though, for us not to forget the American worker in the upcoming weekend. Sure, we can carry on our own end-of-summer traditions, but let’s not forget that we need to acknowledge the American worker who has contributed to this country's strength, freedom and leadership. Amen to that.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.