Labor Day Blues Remembered . . .

Kipona Festival end For me, the end of summer has a poignant melancholy about it. It comes of growing up at the seashore. At the shore, Labor Day was the end of everything fun–of boyfriends, free time, the excitement of new friends, of trips to the boardwalk and beach with visiting cousins or friends, and of days or nights spent working at some cotton candy, spin-a-paint, food concession stand, or amusement part on the local boardwalk. For me, Labor Day and the end of the tourist season signaled the end of my freedom for the next nine months.

I grew up the oldest in a family of ten kids, with parents, dogs, cats, rabbits, piles of old clothes and other collected junk stuffed into a 3-bedroom bungalow–no privacy, no space, no down time. There was one phone, one bathroom, and one car. I grew to love the night. After everyone was asleep I could do anything I wanted to do. I could be alone. . .

I would sit outside and listen to the katydids and crickets, or the screams from the tourists on the boardwalk amusement rides, or hear the sounds of waves crashing onto the beach. Inside I could just sit at the dining room table and read the paper all by myself. It was wonderful.

Regularly, there would be loud shouts from my parents’ bedroom, because my father cussed and shouted in his sleep. Most of the time he really was asleep. He suffered from what veterans of WWII called shell shock or battle fatigue. Today we call it PTSD. Whatever secret demons hounded his waking hours, while he slept, they manifested big time. Once in awhile he woke up and chased me off to bed. But for the times I got away with staying up late, sitting up alone at night was awesome.

I worked all summer, and gave my paychecks to my father every week. He would take them and give me $2 to spend. I was paying for the privilege of 3 months of relative freedom from housework, cleaning, cooking, and babysitting. Sometimes I would work 2 jobs–day and night, just to stay out of the house.

Labor Day brought all that to an end. By the end of the first week in September, I was back in school, back to my chores, and back to 9 months of relative isolation from the world. We had a unchangeable routine–>get up, get washed and dressed, get the younger kids ready for school, walk to school, come home, take care of the kids, make the supper, do the dishes, help the kids with their homework, iron their clothes for school, get them washed and to bed, and then do homework. Everything else–except church–was off limits. That was good too–it gave me a safe place to go and someone to talk to regularly. His name is Jesus.

You are my hiding place and my shield; I find hope in your word.
You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me.
(Psalm 119:114)


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