Thursday, September 12, 2013

Septembers Past and Present

Life at the Shore Before and After Labor Day

The changing of the seasons arrives on schedule, year after year, yet the suddenness and extent of certain changes still amaze me. This is especially true of the beginning of summer – celebrated Memorial Day weekend - and the end of the summer shore season, marked by the arrival of the month of September and Labor Day.

Summer arrives like a crescendo Memorial Day Weekend, assuming the weather cooperates, brash and showy. Three months later the season is over, leaving quietly, almost peacefully, but also abruptly.

The population explodes during the summer. There is activity everywhere, and every place is crowded. The grocery store, the bagel shop, the restaurants, pizza and sub shops, ice cream stands and cafes, even the dry cleaner and bank experience lines. Parking spots are scarce. The gym scene is hectic and classes full. The boardwalk is crowded every morning with walkers, skateboarders, cyclists, joggers, strollers and wheelchairs. 

Driving is an exercise in patience. One block after another the driver finds himself or herself hampered by traffic lights, pedestrians crossing the street laden with beach chairs, ice chests full of drinks and snacks, towels, surf and boogie boards, and toys, with kids in tow. Cyclists whiz along bike lanes.

Labor Day dawns and a dramatic shift occurs. People load cars not only with weekend bags but seasonal stuff. They clean porches, decks and yards, moving furniture and potted plants indoors. Bags of garbage are dragged to the curb as houses are cleaned and closed for the season.

Car trunks packed, trunks slammed shut, the cars and their city owners drive off, most not to be seen again until Memorial Day weekend next year.

I wish them well, but cannot say I am sad to see them go. I now have my island back.

I am not sure what people did before Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894. What singular event or day marked the end of summer?

Maybe nothing special symbolized the end of the season. Perhaps summer gradually vanished, the days growing shorter, the weather cooler, and schools opened.

Locals will tell you the best month of the year at the shore is September. The weather remains warm, the water is warm, the beaches empty, tourists are gone, and there are no waits for restaurant tables or backups on the highways. Parking spaces abound. There are no long lines at the ice cream or bagel store, although there is less choice of treats at the bagel store as vast amounts of pastries and other goodies are no longer available.

We island folk will survive, and our waistlines are thankful.

The gym is peaceful and quiet, the frenetic bustle of seasonal folk gone. Impatience and rudeness seem to characterize seasonal visitors. The rest of us breathe a sigh of relief and no longer arrive early for class. Women no longer fight over a prime position on the gym floor.

The beautiful weather continues, although darkness arrives earlier each evening. But so far the transformations are mainly human ones. Nature’s major seasonal changes are yet to come.


  1. That is the way for any tourist spot--thanks for spending your money, now go home!

  2. Our northern life has too gone back to our peaceful little world. All the summer folks have gone home. We do appreciate their business, because without them, many businesses could not be sustained with just the local trade. It's a good blend!! I do fine myself looking forward to Labor Day weekend more and more as the years go on.

  3. My sister lives in Florida, and it's just the opposite. It's quiet all summer long, and then the snowbirds begin to return, and by the end of September, the roads and restaurants are all crowded again. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the days are getting shorter, but the weather is just beautiful! :-)