The Last Holiday

The Last Holiday


Why are we celebrating the obligation to toil most of our lives? Seriously, why is Labor Day an American holiday? Is it an excuse for one last blowout before – before what?

I’m tempted to research the origins of Labor Day, though I have no doubt that I learned all about it back in fourth grade. It’s never made sense to me to get a day off to celebrate work.

Of course it’s never made sense to me that we have to expend so much of our energy to make money so we can spend money on such things as celebrating something with which most of us have a love/hate relationship: our jobs.

Even as a kid, Labor Day was no picnic for me. My parents might travel from Queens to see family in Boston, and we might fill a carload or two with parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws.

In the trunks would be coolers of iced liquids, sun tan lotion, towels, pails, shovels, diapers, beach balls, inflatable swimming gear, flippers, masks, snorkels, lawn chairs, and the rest of the paraphernalia required to have a few hours of fun, in our case, at sunny Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The ocean always turned out to be too cold for swimming, and the site was too windy for sunning, but there were some climbing rocks and a small playground, an ice cream stand and, for me, activities to help me forget I had to go back to dreaded school.

Today, I live in a seaside tourist town. Here, we celebrate Labor Day for a unique reason: the tourists go home.

In season we can barely break into the thick traveling traffic to leave the house. Once headed toward town, the out of state and inland drivers are completely bonkers. It’s like bumper cars in an amusement park. They speed through congested areas, dodge in front of other cars to gain an inch, text and smoke with their windows open, rev diesel engines, and cause collisions off and on all day. I know: I have a police scanner. There is something desperate in these visitors who come at the end of summer.

I understand. I dreaded every day I ever worked. That’s no way to spend one’s existence, but given that my life’s work is writing (and much needed gay-centric writing at that), leaving my home to earn money made me furious. Work was nothing to celebrate, but retirement is! Finally I am free to write my little heart out. But, oh, how hard it is to watch my sweetheart rejoin the labor market.

It’s been a treat having her at home with me, in the next room while I write, beside me when I take a break, and spending time together whenever we want. We walk on the beaches weekdays when they’re empty.

We go for rides to explore back roads. We’ve had time to travel a bit of America. My sweetheart unpacked almost all of our too many household goods, arranged the furniture, filled the cabinets, hung the pictures while I finished up at my job and wrote. And she’s been perfectly content being a homemaker.

But she’ll need to retire someday, and our plans are bigger than our wallets. She’s been applying for jobs and getting interviews, networking and disseminating resumes. I try to help with my 30 odd years of experience as a vocational counselor. After all, I lured her out West.

My sweetheart looks like a power femme all dressed up for the job hunt. She charms and impresses interviewers. Yet small town hiring is kind of quirky. Everyone who is already working knows everybody from high school or church or the bowling club. When openings come up, it’s usually someone with deep roots in the community who is hired.

My sweetheart in many instances clearly has more to offer an employer than some fledgling, but the known quantity may seem the safer bet or the hiring manager may have some tie that binds. There are not a whole lot of employers here, especially understaffed employers. Worse, maturity is not the selling point it should be.

Fortunately, we have lots of support through the hunt. When our friend HML saw a picture of my sweetheart all gussied up, HML joshed her about the dressy little purse she carries to interviews and promptly named it Beulah.

Now my sweetheart never has to attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting, drop off resumes, or endure interviews alone. She has Beulah with her.

Maybe we’ll go to a secret local beach for a picnic on Labor Day to create good magic. The water will be too cold to swim and the winds too strong to sun. The tourists will be racing back to work after partying with desperation. Beulah can stay home to guard the resumes. She likes her job.

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