labor: physical or mental exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting; work.*
labor day still brings to mind the last day before the new school year begins; a september holiday, a monday of celebrating hard work by providing the chance not to do it, a day when the only thing i can think about is the work tuesday will entail.
every bit of that has changed. returning to the library or the classroom isn't on my calendar this year, and that same calendar shows a holiday that falls in may. today i'm not mentally rehearsing my own work. instead, for the first time, i'm thinking about work that my husband's paisanos are doing, both here in mexico and across the northern border.
mexico celebrates labor day today, the day of the international solidarity of workers. patricio's not working. neither are uncle jorge and aunt sara. we're headed up to their ranch soon for an afternoon of doing nothing but sit, visit, and eat many a taco of carne asada. smaller towns play host to parades. cities like the capital will surely see all stripes of union protests.
i haven't heard the news, but i'm curious to know if the boycott is underway in the u.s. today, too. i'm curious to know if thousands of people are absent from work. and i'm curious to know if it serves its purpose.
because i'm a bit cynical about the idea of labor day. while patricio and i sleep in and drink breakfast coffee at noon, thousands of people here in mexico have been hard at work since much earlier hours. while we spend the day doing everything but working hard, we still silently expect others to report to their posts, to keep our lives easy and predictable. we want to fill the jetta tank with gas, keep the radio on while we do it, and pick up an extra kilo of steak for the party up the hill.
it often seems like those who really labor--that difficult, exhausting physical or mental exertion--are those who continue doing just that, straight through the holiday. whether in their usual posts or on the streets en masse, they're either doubting or still hoping that that their work will be recognized. i don't knock a day off; a break from the routine can be very, very healthy. but it also seems to me that a day off is appropriate recognition for those who labor under favorable conditions. the year may be filled with busy and stressful work schedules, but also with commensurate salaries, medical insurance plans and a 401k. a day off for those working without such benefits is a day to worry about lost income, or a day to march, mentally occupied, in an attempt to garner better conditions.
maybe cynicism isn't the right term. i'm also harboring hopes that someday labor day will be a holiday celebrated, either in may or september, as a day of progress made--a day in which more people can really enjoy a day off, or at the very least, feel fairly recompensed for the work they're doing. labor day changed for me this year. maybe i'm not alone?
*the american heritage dictionary