Yes... we've been absent for some time due to 'technical difficulties,' summer vacations, busy schedules and the like. This column conjures images of summer's past and was originally published in September of 1992. As always... please enjoy it as much as we did.
Here we are, Labour Day past and gone and it just didn't seem right this year.
Labour Day is one of those gloomy holidays which isn't so much a holiday as a warning. After this, Labour Day says “forget about holidays” and – this far north, anyway – “forget about summer.” Summer may have a couple more weeks running time according to the almanac, but Labour Day might just as well be the official kiss-off.
We all know what comes after Labour Day, right? School. Shades of the prison house about to close and all that. At least, that's the way it has always been. This year the poor teachers, my wife included, were shut away on the 31st of August and classes actually began gearing up on the 2nd of September. My school days are behind me, but the thought of starting school before Labour Day sends a chill down the spine.
I mean, one problem with the end of the school year is that it has never been firmly anchored to any major festival, and so school can – and often does – go on and on… and on. But the beginning of school was safe. No bureaucrat could tamper with it, protected as it was by gloomy Labour Day. Now suddenly an assault has been made upon tradition and the assault, for the moment, anyway, has been successful. Who knows where this sort of thing will end? The next thing you know we will be told by higher authority that the twenty-four hour day has been replaced by something which will give us back the twelve-hour workday so beloved of capitalists and captains of industry.
Here at home the day was spent in traditional occupations suitable to the gloomy holiday, although, since school has already begun, there was no sense of foreboding hanging over it all. We did manage to have the usual debate, much looked-forward to by all parties, as to whether or not we should go somewhere for the day. Like similar debates in the past this one is fuelled by the feeling that the year is closing in. During the summer, Fundy Park and similar delights are only a shortish car trip away. But come September (especially that part of September that lies on the other side of Labour Day) and Fundy recedes into the misty reaches of Never-Never Land.
This year, as in years past, the debate finally resolved itself in the afternoon when it became clear that it was then too late to get anywhere before it would be time to turn around and come back.
Somehow, with school starting early, Labour Day and its appointed labours snuck up on me this year. Every year for some years now Labour Day has been the day appointed to pick chokecherries so as to make a batch of chokecherry wine.
The world divides again and again on various issues from the important (white or whole-wheat toast for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich?) to the trivial (will the Stanley Cup playoffs go on for six months or only seem to go on for six months?). It also divides on the question of picking berries. There are those who love to pick berries and there are those who just as firmly detest picking berries; I have found very few people who are not in one camp or the other. I myself happen to detest picking berries.
However, I am the one who makes the wine, and for a good chokecherry wine a gallon of chokecherries is required for a gallon of wine. Since we usually put down five gallons of wine at a time that means somebody has got to pick five gallons of those little tiny cherries. Since the chokecherries are ripe this time of year, it seems only fitting that Labour Day should be the day to do the picking and that I should be “a” picker.
This year, though, since school has already begun, I didn't have the usual week or so of September before the big day to psych myself up for the great pick-off. Now that the kids are grown up and away from home there are only the two of us to do the picking. Fortunately, my wife is one of those who enjoys picking, and so the job, instead of appearing to be infinite in extent is only half-infinite. I think I am right in saying that when it comes to things like infinity, half infinity is still infinity. It certainly seems that way when you know that you have to pick two and one-half gallons of chokecherries before you can stop.
Still, even I had to admit that the picking went faster than in years past, and in a couple of hours we had amassed quite a respectable amount of berries, with time out to identify the birds who were complaining about our presence as Cedar Waxwings.
Gloomy Labour Day could have been worse.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.