Can Labor Day Be Right Around the Corner? It’s Already August; What Happened to Summer?
August is a month that really gets the short end of the stick. Summer unofficially begins on Memorial Day in May and unofficially ends on Labor Day in September. June is the month for graduations and plenty of weddings, and July of course has the 4th. August is somewhat forgotten.
August actually is quite significant for me. Both of my parents were born in August — on the 7th and 10th — and so was I, on the 31st (just two hours from being a September baby). I closed on my San Diego condo on Aug. 7, 2001 and I moved from San Jose to America’s Finest City a little more than two weeks later, on Aug. 23. But, this blog isn’t about August — or is it?
Bye, Bye Summer Fruits
As the days start to get shorter and the temperatures cool down a bit, fruits that were abundant earlier in the summer begin to disappear — or what’s available is a pale imitation of the best of the harvest. You’ve still got a little time, since it’s still August, to enjoy the following top 10 summer fruits, as selected by Parenting.FirstCry.com:
All these fruits have health-enhancing benefits — and your taste buds will thank you for including them in your diet. Get ‘em while you still can.
Back to School
Once the calendar turns to August, kids all over the country — and the world — can be heard collectively groaning as all the back-to-school ads start running. At the same time, all the beleaguered parents who’ve been counting down toward the beginning of a new school year start to perk up a bit.
I never really dreaded going back to school; what I missed was sleeping in. I recall waiting anxiously to receive my class assignment, and then running to the phone to see where my closest friends had been assigned. (This was way-way pre-mobile phone and e-mail; I grew up in the stone age of phones tethered to the wall with curly cords and typewriters.)
Most families have back-to-school rituals they follow on an annual basis, starting with kindergarten and getting more complex (and expensive) as the years go on. A lot of those rituals have to do with being properly prepared for a new grade.
It was fun to go shopping for new clothes, but I always lamented that I never got any one-on-one time with my mom. Since I was the oldest, my two younger sisters were always present on our trips to the store. I know back-to-school clothes shopping occurs today, but I imagine a lot of it is conducted online, which, while certainly convenient, eliminates the tactile experience.
School supply shopping was also a big deal — heading out with lists provided by the school of required materials on day 1. There wasn’t a lot of room for originality, except for two items: lunch boxes and book covers. I’m not really sure why we had the latter; I know we used them to cover the fronts and backs of hard cover textbooks, but why?
I Googled back-to-school supplies to see how much has changed since I was in school. While some of the “staples” like pencils, graph paper, erasers, notebooks and a protractor are still required, there are lots of new additions. (Quick aside: Has anyone ever used a protractor in “real life”?) The Back to School Basics: The Easy Shopping List I found contains items like a laptop and laptop bag, printer and ink cartridges, and posted notes — things that were of course yet to exist “in my day.”
I actually recall very little about my first days at school, other than that 7th grade started for me on my birthday. Oh, the horror! I also remember when my family drove away from my dorm when I was starting my freshman year of college — and I was both excited and terrified. My nephew will have that experience in a couple weeks when he’s dropped off for his freshman year at Ohio State, but he’ll have something I didn’t — a mobile phone — to keep him connected to family and friends.
My niece will have a different back-to-school experience a couple days after her brother starts his college years. She’ll experience her final back-to-school as she begins her senior year at Michigan State. If she’s anything like me, and probably most other people, it will only seem odd when there’s no back-to-school the following fall — when the world of work becomes a reality and all those back-to-schools are just a memory. Enjoy ‘em while you can, I say.
Let’s Hear it for Labor Day
Plenty of schools start before Labor Day, which is always the first Monday in September, but classes aren’t held on that day and most people have the day off. Why? According to History.com, Labor Day pays tribute to American workers’ contributions and achievements. It became a federal holiday in 1894, after being created by the labor movement in the late 19th century.
Labor Day actually originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. The average worker toiled for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and despite laws against it, in some states, children as young as five and six worked in mills, factories, and mines. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions as well as insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks.
Labor unions, which were first organized in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal as manufacturing overtook agriculture as the primary source of American employment. In 1886, the Haymarket Riot occurred in Chicago, during which several policemen and workers were killed. On September 5, 1882, thousands of workers in New York City took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square — the first U.S. Labor Day parade.
It would take 12 more years before Labor Day became a legal holiday. Congress acted only after the massive unrest that occurred when the employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike in 1894 to protest wage cuts and firing union representatives — and more than a dozen workers were killed during the federal government’s attempts to break the strike.
Most people don’t think much about Labor Day’s origin while enjoying parades, picnics, and barbecues — and saying an unofficial goodbye to summer. But if you’re reading this before Labor Day, you can change that — and if it’s still August, you can grab some summer fruits and begin the countdown to the new school year.
Do you have any back-to-school traditions you’d like to share? Favorite summer fruits? Thoughts on Labor Day? Or maybe you’re just a fan of August. We want to know!