In my day many years ago, Labor Day signaled the official end of summer. School didn't start the middle of August as it does today. School waited until we were done with summer and ready for Fall.
Labor Day itself was spent with my best friend's large extended family. The whole clan gathered at a park and spent the day playing volleyball, softball or dodge ball. The only person allowed to rest in the shade of the big, old trees was Grandma. Seated on a fold-up chair with cushions, she yelled at us if we missed a return or dropped the ball, but was quick to call us over for a hug or pat on the back. But her primary job was to shoo hungry children away from the food waiting on the picnic tables and that was a full-time job!
Late in the afternoon we stopped to rest and share a meal. Pop-tops were removed, dishes unwrapped, paper cups brought out - fried chicken, ham, salads of every variety, deviled eggs, chips and then dessert. Oh my! Apple pie, chocolate cake, cookies and brownies - we had it all. Of course, we had iced tea, lemonade and Kool-Ade for the little ones.
After the meal, some people dozed, others read and the rest pulled their lawn chairs together to visit and reminiscence about previous picnics. By the time we left, the youngest ones were dragging.
My thoughts were already turning to the next day - the First Day of School.
The past few weeks had been spent finding just the right clothes to start out the new school year. No slacks or shorts in those days; we always wore a dress and new shoes, often of the black and white saddle variety. Baths on that Labor Day evening were extra long, hair was washed and clothes were laid out for the next day. There was no arguing about staying up late -I was exhausted from the long day outside and, besides, I was anxious for the next day to arrive. After what seemed like just a few minutes, it was time to get up, eat, dress and start the new school year. Nothing could surpass the anticipation of a new clothes, new books and a fresh start.
School days are behind me and my children are grown now. Although I have no one to get ready for the first day of school, I can't help thinking of those days back in the '50s.