by Joseph Walker
It has always struck me as more than just a little bit ironic that every year about this time America pays tribute to her working men and women by not working.
I appreciate a day off as much as the next worker bee. It's just the logic of Labor Day that throws me. I mean, on Thanksgiving we actually give thanks. On Christmas we celebrate a gift from God by giving gifts ourselves. On Easter we observe another divine gift by eating multi-colored eggs that were supposedly delivered by a rabbit.
Okay, so the logic of Easter eludes me, too.
Still, it stands to reason that if we are going to celebrate America's workers, there ought to be something . . . you know . . . laborious about it.
Mom and Dad understood the concept. Around our house, Labor Day was just that: a day to labor. I don't remember any Labor Day picnics or parties or barbecues. We'd just had a full summer for that. Labor Day meant that school was back in session and it was time to work.
And so we did. We prepared the garden bed for winter. We pruned fruit trees. We bottled peaches and tomatoes until the inside of our house was thick with steam and aroma. Sometimes there were special projects that we didnâ€™t finish during the summer: painting the trim around the house; taking out an old, dead stump; planting new grass in that patch of dirt in the middle of the lawn that we used as home plate during spirited games of whiffle ball.
For me, however, the job was always the same: mowing, edging, and raking the lawn. As the youngest of eight children, I always got the easiest - and most boring - duty.
"It's not fair!" I protested one Labor Day. "I do the lawn all summer. Why can't somebody else do it today?"
"Because everyone else already has a job," Mom said.
So much for labor negotiations.
A late summer trip had interrupted regularly scheduled lawn care that year, and our yard looked it. The grass was tall and thick - especially the edges. I shuddered. Dad didn't believe in power mowers or edgers, so this would require hours of back-breaking, wrist-snapping, energy-sapping labor.
What a way to spend Labor Day, huh?
Don't ask me how, but I survived the ordeal. My fingers ached from squeezing Dad's rusty grass clippers. And I was itchy from the grass that seemed to cover me. But for some reason, as I sat out on the front porch looking out over the aesthetic results of my labors, none of that mattered. I was weary, but content. And I wasn't sure why until Mom came out with the lemonade.
"That's why we have you mow the lawn," she said as she handed me a tall, cool glass. "You do such a good job."
In retrospect, I'm sure other lawns in our neighborhood looked as good as ours. Maybe better. But that night I was King Lawnboy, and all was right in my carefully clipped kingdom.
I've never forgotten the feeling of satisfaction that came from a job well done. That's the feeling we ought to celebrate on Labor Day, for much of what we are as a nation we owe to the efforts of workers who are willing to work, and who take pride in the results of their labors. So do something laborious this Labor Day, and savor the privilege and blessing of work.
'Tis the season, you know.