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My Labour Day

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Labor Day (I am using the American spelling for this piece,) to me is a sad time. A time of endings and hard times. Seems strange for someone like myself who has had a long involvement with the labor movement and who comes from a family of labor unionists. But, there it is: Labor Day = bittersweet memories.

A lot has to do with my upbringing in a family that dared to encourage rebellion and often displayed a decided enjoyment in tilting at windmills. Labor Day, regardless of the actual date, was the day my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary, actually, it was the day they ran off and eloped despite my grandparents’ objections to their daughter marrying “beneath her.” By the time I came along, my grandparents had had a drastic change of heart and my father was beloved by them.  The only reason I heard about the earlier misgivings of my grandparents was because my mother joked about the elopement saying, “I was married on Labor Day and I have been in labor ever since!”

My parents spent many years living in near poverty. Unfortunately, shortly after they wed, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression ensued.  I only heard about those tough years in off-handed ways. Like, “Always shop at AM&A’s if you can; they gave me a job one Christmas during the Depression.  And don’t even go into ****’s. They would not even let us put stuff on layaway.” OK, Ma.

My mother carried on a years’ long vendetta against our parish priest who made a house call to chew out my mother about standing up at the wedding of an old-time friend (in a Protestant church for heaven’s sake.) Ma slammed the door in the face of the priest and the battle lines were drawn.  “What a hypocrite,” was all she would say.  Much later, he was reassigned to another parish when the knowledge of his affair with the woman across the street from the church was revealed.  I have always suspected that Ma had something to do with that reveal. And then there was my brother’s boy scout troop leader who my mother suspected was a pedophile. Even my father thought she was barking up the wrong tree there, but she was relentless. She would just show up at the boy scout camp, myself and my friend Kathy in tow, to the point that she was asked to stay away. But she was right all along. The boy scout leader left in disgrace; my brother was spared and people no longer dismissed her antics as “Crescent Avenue’s own Lucy Ricardo in action.”

So, what has all this to do with Labor Day?  Well, I can’t help but think of her and her crusades and her protective instincts on Labor Day.  I can’t help but smile when I think of her own  contribution to the labor movement in her last days above the ground. I took it as a sign that, in death, she did not disappoint our labor union loving hearts.  The gravediggers were on strike at Holy Cross Cemetery when Ma died and, of course we did not allow her to be buried until the strike was over.  We thought that was some kind of final laugh at convention.

Happy Labor Day, Ma and Pa. And Happy Anniversary.


Written by crystalbeachstrand

September 5, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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