Labor Day 9/2/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

inspirational quotes anger James 1 19 " be quick to listen slow to speak and slow toWell –
this weekend we celebrate Labor Day –
another one of those American holidays
that baffles non-Americans.

Everyone else in the world
wonders who in their right mind
would celebrate “labor” –
one of the classical curses
put upon mankind by God –
as Adam was thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

We’re supposed to work at figuring out
how to avoid labor –
not celebrate it.

But for us –
it’s one of those “water shed holidays” –
where our lives change direction –
and we reorder our routines.

Someone once described it
as the “real New Years” –
when we actually begin a new year
with all sorts of resolutions –
and promises of things to be done better.

It was the time of year –
for my mother to give her annual
“Apply Yourself” lecture.

“You’re starting a new school year –
and you have to apply yourself –
or you will never get into college –
and no one will want to hire you –
and you’ll end up collecting garbage.”
“Flippin’ burgers” had not yet been invented –
so my mother had to resort to
garbage collection
as a fate that would befall me –
if I didn’t “apply myself.”

The truth was –
I was doing a great job of “applying myself” –
just not in the ways
she had in mind.

Different things were important to me –
like who I was dating –
where I could hide in school to smoke –
how I could get away with skipping school –
how I could finagle
getting my sister’s car –
and just generally –
what kind of trouble I could get into.

I had no fear of collecting garbage –
so I just “grunted and groaned”
through those lectures.

Same lectures –
same response – grunt, groan.

It was Labor Day –
and I dreaded it.

First – school started again –
which meant the end of lazy summers –
and laying around.

Teenagers “lay around” a lot –

But this was before air conditioning –
and “laying around” was an art form.

There were no meetings –
in hot, stuffy buildings.

There was limited running around –
and traveling –
in cars and buses without air conditioning.

Summer was hot –
and your best goal
was to find a cool spot –
read a book,
or play cards,
or go to the beach,
or visit a pool,
or something like that.

Serious activity –
anything that required moving –
was held early in the morning –
or early in the evening.

But during the day –
you moved slowly,
dressed lightly,
and sat around.

Well –
Labor Day ended all of that.

It was back to business.

We were told over and over
that complaining about the heat
only made it hotter.

Labor Day was also
when the house was put back together.

You see – in late May –
as temperatures began to rise –
draperies were taken down –
and shipped off to dry cleaners –
who would fold, pleat, and package them
to be rehung in the Fall.

They were replaced by white cotton curtains.

Slip covers on the furniture
were removed
and also sent to dry cleaners –
replaced by white cotton slipcovers –
that could be washed from time to time.

Rugs – no matter how big –
were rolled up
and replaced by grass rugs
that had wintered in the attic.

Scott’s Rug Cleaners –
still in business on Princess Anne Rd. –
came and picked up the rugs –
cleaned them,
moth proofed them,
and stored them until fall –
when they would deliver them back –
all wrapped up
and smelling of moth balls.

Storm windows were unscrewed –
taken down –
and stored away –
replaced by screens.

Window awnings were lowered,
and repaired, if needed.

Winter clothes were packed away –
or moved to the back of closets –
or put in bags with moth balls –
and summer clothes were “brought forward.”

And all of this was reversed
on Labor Day.

It’s just what you did.

There was a rhythm to it.

It was part of the “life cycle” in the south –
before air conditioning.

Well – that’s from a time gone by.

Few of us could imagine
living through a summer
without air conditioning –

Few of us would find time and energy today –
to reset our households like that.

Our rhythms and living patterns have changed –
and I don’t know of anyone
who would want to go back to that.

I really think that air conditioning
changed our lives and culture –
even more than computers.
Daily life in the summer –
is very different from what it was –
“back in the day.”

I guess the “apply yourself” lecture
is still delivered in most households.

There’s still an excitement over school opening –
and choirs starting rehearsals –
and vestries meeting –
and Sunday School starting.

Merchants have planned
their series of sales and events
to follow “back to school.”

I guess next will be Halloween,
then Thanksgiving,
then Christmas, etc.

It’s probably all planned –
and just needs to be put in place.

It’s the rhythm of our lives.

It’s our cycles.

It tells us who we are
in our time and our space.

Yesterday –
I watched John McCain’s funeral
at the National Cathedral.

One line in Barack Obama’s eulogy
really brought me upright.

Quoting Hemmingway, he said,
“Today is only one day
in all the days that will ever be.
But what will happen
in all the other days that ever come
can depend on what you do today.”

I think I read everything Hemingway wrote.

He was very important
to my formation.

I do not remember that line.

But I think it sort of replaces
my mother’s “Apply yourself” lecture.

It speaks more clearly
to who I am today.

“Today is only one day
in all the days that will ever be.
But what will happen
in all the other days that ever come
can depend on what you do today.”

Our time is very different
than when I was a teenager –
rolling and unrolling rugs
in May and September.

For me –
“the time” is more a matter of counting days –
and making days count.

I guess that’s what happens
when we get older.

Our focus changes and grows.

I did apply myself – dear mother.

Now – this Labor Day –
I work to make my days count.

It’s different –
but it’s the same –
this Labor Day.


Posted September 5, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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