By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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Yesterday was Labor Day, which for millions of Americans is a time of great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not only does school begin, so the kids are unhappy, but the great American rat race of practices, games, lessons, frantic scrambling and chaotic schedules once again takes center stage and threatens the sanity of every mother futilely attempting to maintain some control over her life.

Even those of us happily beyond the daily dose of that particular bedlam are affected as SUV’s with wild-eyed women behind the wheel once again commandeer every roadway, making a simple trip to the grocery store as complex as an assault on a target in a war zone. “I need some salad for dinner; I think I’ll run to the store. Oh god, wait! It’s 3:30! First I’ll have to work around the school buses and every kid in the neighborhood has soccer practice or dance lessons. I’ll be taking my life in my hands if I drive anywhere now. Frozen corn it is.”

Personally, Labor Day signals the re-emergence of other things laborious. Cooking, for one. After a summer of slapping chicken or burgers on the grill and cutting up some fresh Jersey tomatoes as a side dish—dinner in ten minutes, thank you—it’s time to contemplate turning on the oven again and taking on the always arduous game of “What’s for dinner?” I hate that game.

Work-wise, there will be no more bringing a notebook and writing on the beach, or more to the point, using the beach as an excuse for not writing in the first place. As you well know, I repeatedly remind everyone within ear shot how much work it is to maintain a beach house with a revolving door. And it is, but it’s also a convenient excuse to avoid getting down to the business of trying to make a living at this writing thing—an excuse that I employ regularly and with relish. Time to stop the yapping and start the focusing. I hate that game, too.

Finally, for me, Labor Day signals the end of my personal game of hide-and-seek. Truth time: I hide out at the Jersey shore in the summer. I avoid mail, people who drive me crazy and generally, as much stress as I possibly can, simply by not showing up to my “real” life from mid-May to September. Just the thought of re-entering my real life playing  field has me sitting here fighting off the initial pangs of a panic attack. However, it must be done.

Or “must it?” Come to think of it, no one’s actually come looking for me. Maybe I’m that annoying kid that everyone tells to go and hide and they’ll come find me but they have no intention of actually looking. Maybe my hiding out is a huge relief for everyone else as well.

Well, that’s okay, too. Who says a mere date on the calendar need signal the return to a laborious life? If I just stay here, perhaps everybody else’s life would be a bit less laborious, too. It’ll be tough, but if it’s for the greater good, I’ll just have to stick this out a while longer.

So if you’re seeking me (which you probably won’t be), check out the beach. I’ll be the one with the notebook—not writing.

What does Labor Day mean to you? Click “comments” below and share!