Today is Labor Day; even though summer isn’t officially over for another two weeks or so, for me Labor Day marks the end of summer. Already, the garden has begun to wind down — the hydrangeas that were such a pristine white last month are on their way to becoming the dusty rose of autumn. The petunias which hang by the front walk are quickly losing their summer vigor, and the milkweed is bursting open its silken seeds.
As a child I was conflicted about this day; while I dreaded the first day of school, I was also excited about trading my summer shorts for the skirts and dresses newly hung in the closet. Autumn seemed to be the best of times — weather warm enough to play outside comfortably, but not too hot, countless brightly-colored leaves to rake and jump into or merely press into a book, and the anticipation of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas .
I feel much the same today as a sixty-something grandmother. While I have enjoyed my garden, waking to early morning light and birdsong, watching darkness fall, filling the sky with stars, and the delicious taste of a fresh tomato with a sprig of basil, I also look forward to cooler days, trees aflame with color, soups simmering on the stove, and snuggling into cozy, warm sweaters.
On Friday I brought out my autumn decorations — swags of colored leaves, wine baskets with grapevines woven here and there, ceramic gourds, pumpkins, and my lovely little turkey gravy boat which will grace my sideboard until Thanksgiving. The weekend has been perfect, with deeply blue skies, cool breezes and plenty of sunshine. I have savored every moment. This afternoon I prepared a potato salad to complement our grilled burgers tonight, and a chocolate cake is cooling on the counter. We will have our last picnic of summer tonight.
On Wednesday, my grandchildren will go back to school. My youngest, Emma, will begin kindergarten, and my days will be much more free. For the first time in nine years, I will not have a little one to care for during the day. I will drop my older granddaughter, Alivia, off at school in the morning, and have the day to myself until time to meet Luke and Emma at the bus stop in late afternoon. With the coming of autumn this year will also come a change in my lifestyle. I have loved every minute I have spent with my grandchildren, but I will also love having time now to pursue other interests. Time is very precious, and for the first time in many, many years, I will have the gift of free time.
This Labor Day ushers in both a new season and a new phase of my life. The days ahead beckon to me with plans and ideas for projects and pleasures. I will have more time to spend with friends, maybe join a writing group, return to the genealogy research I began before my grandchildren were born — my days will be a blank slate to fill with the things I enjoy. And I definitely plan to enjoy this gift of time to the fullest.