Labour Day is an adult holiday. The media tries to pass it off as a day of family fun, a time to celebrate the last freedoms of summer, but it’s really all about adults having the day off from work and drinking beer starting at noon. If you’re a kid, it’s impossible to enjoy because there is a giant clock hanging over your head. It doesn’t say, “Tick-tock, tick-tock.” It says, “School-starts! School-starts!”
I was always an odd kid in that I actually loved school and could hardly wait, but Labour Day still had its bad points for me. At least in junior high. Each summer, I had BIG plans and by Labour Day it was quite apparent that none of them had come to fruition. I hadn’t managed to turn such a beautiful golden tan that my freckles had disappeared, my breasts had not suddenly “bloomed”, and my stick-straight hair still refused to feather.
As if taking stock of my physical humiliations wasn’t bad enough, I had another reason to dislike Labour Day. Pretty much every year, the end of the summer boiled down to this final conversation.
Mom: I am not going to tell you again. If you’re room isn’t clean, and I mean clean, by bedtime, you will be grounded for the entire school year.
Me: Fine. Be that way.
Eight hours later, I would emerge, after having spent seven hours and forty-five minutes on the bed reading Trixie Belden, and fifteen minutes shoving everything into my closet. I would find my mom, probably making dinner since she never got a day off from that, and say in a surly voice, “I’m done. Are you happy now that you’ve ruined my last day of vacation?”
Depending on how her day had gone, she’d either glance into my room, sigh, and avoid opening the closet in fear of being crushed by what she knew was behind those doors, or she’d throw them open, glare at me, and then make me me stay in my room for the rest of the night as punishment (which I would invariably spend reading the next book in the TB series).
Eventually, I got smart. I started paying my friend, Darci, five bucks to clean for me. Remember, this was way back in the dark ages of junior high when five dollars could buy an awful lot of Bubblelicious. I would kick back on my bed, reading or chatting, and Darci would methodically sort dirty clothes from clean, cute from “OMG! You didn’t really buy this, did you?” (which I unfortunately had), and books from magazines. She’d make neat piles of art supplies, alphabetize my records, replace my dolls on their shelves (I used them to practice hairstyles – I wasn’t playing with them!), and throw away all my candy wrappers. If we heard my mom coming down the hall, I would jump up and Darci would dive onto the bed. Just as the door opened, I would pick something up like I’d been about to toss it in the garbage or whatever. Mom would survey my progress and then say something like, “It’s nice of Darci to keep you company, but you’d probably get it done faster without her here.” Little did she know.
In the end, my room would sparkle. It seemed like a pretty cheap price to pay for a clean room and a happy mom.
This past Labour Day I looked around my house and wondered if Darci still had the same phone number. I’m pretty sure they have Bubblelicious up here in Canada. Darci, if you’re reading this, you can reach me through my website. But don’t tell my husband, okay? I’ll be on the porch, working on my tan.
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