Labor Day: A Matter of Black and White

It’s Labor Day, kids.    Some might consider this to be the last official day of summer and the first official beginning of the fall, that here in Texas, just never seems to begin.  

I’m doing nothing on this day.   I’m staying home and attempting to thwart the Haz Mat team that wants in to deal with this petri dish I call my home.   It needs cleaning….and beyond that, it needs purging of all the old unused, never used, unwanted, never needed and the no longer working crap that has amassed itself in the four-point-five rooms I live in.    The Feng  Shui types would tell me that all this crap lying around is just inviting negative energy.   Well, if the unsavory events of my life are any indication, Ol’ Negativo has already moved in a pitched a tent in my living room to stay for the long haul.  

So, its eviction day for all the crap in my life.      I am cleaning house today…exercising my rite to exorcise all the nastiness that seems to hover.  

My mother, some 195 miles to my west is doing something similar.    However, the things on her Labor Day “to do list” are far more ritualistic.  She will do something today that she’s done on this day…and at Easter….that she’s done for most of her 80-plus years on this Big Blue Marble.   My mother was/is a stickler for that old, “No wearing anything white after Labor Day/no wearing black after Easter” routine.  It was so driven into my head that if I see someone clad in white later today, I’ll have a visceral reaction. I try to fight it, but it’s ingrained. It’s part of my core being.

I’ve learned to be far more forgiving of this–especially here in Texas where it can still be 95 degrees on a Wednesday in mid October.  But my mother?   Hardly.  She’s older than old school.  She will she negotiate on her opinion of this formidable fashion faux pas, despite the fact that Cosmo, Glamor and a cadre of designers, along with tragically hip and chic gay men have deemed it to be no longer applicable in the world of modern haute couture.

“They’re wrong”, says Mother.

CHAPTER ONE

What happens on Labor Day in my mother’s house, is as predictable as the phases of the moon; as predictable as knowing Brad and Angelina adopt in years ending in odd numbers and as predictable as knowing emphatically that pudgy Hollywood galoot and shit stirrer, Michael Moore never skips a meal.

If it is Labor Day, then my mother will be doing what she always does. She’ll spend five to six hours rearranging her closet. She’ll remove all things white, light and summery and replaced them with all things heavy, dark and wintry.

That which is taken away is carefully wrapped in white tissue paper and put in cardboard boxes or in plastic multi-drawer compartments, then placed in a shelf in her closet, never to appear again until Peter Cottontail emerges from his springtime sabbatical to hide brightly colored ova in deserving front yards.

PROLOGUE

My mothers compulsive reaction to this and other things carried over in everyday life.  My two older sisters and I were raised as proper Texas young ladies.   Our hair was shampooed and our skin was scrubbed clean until our skin glowed (and considering the vast amounts of uranium that found in subterranean South Texas in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I mean that both figuratively AND literally). We were impeccably dressed. Shirts that were flawlessly pressed and pants with creases so sharp, you could use them to slice with deli-like precision, anything canned by Hormel.

Our dresses were designed and sewn to perfection and then there was the full complement of couture accoutrement por le petite femmes–I’m talking gloves, lace socks, crinoline petticoats, patent-leather Mary Janes with matching bags and of course, hats in church. You see, we were Catholic and this was South Texas and pre-Vatican II.

We took tap and ballet and piano lessons and voice lessons and we each learned to play an instrument and were all cheerleaders and the list of parental requirements and mandates that we HAD to achieve and/or accomplish before we reached the age of majority, reads like a scroll.

My mother poked and prodded and made me read and write and think and create. By the 5th grade, I knew things most college Sophomores didn’t. That’s the way it was. My mother’s fiendish plot to age me before my time, to make me stuffy and to completely isolate me socially was working.

In fact, my senior year in High School, I was voted, “Most Likely To Someday  Own A Pair of Opera Glasses”.

EPILOGUE

You know that “black after Labor Day/white after Easter” stuff I mentioned in the prologue? Well, it carried over in our lives; not just with what we wore. It was about how we lived; it was about the way we lived.  It became a state of mind

Again, I will reiterate my mother was a stickler.

At summer picnics, I was forbidden to eat a sandwich that was made on darker breads such as Rye or Pumpernickel and I was ONLY allowed to date Black guys from September through mid April.

Happy Labor Day, ya’ll.

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One comment

  1. >“They’re wrong”, says Mother.

    Fight the good fight, ma.

    I’ve often thought Dallas wants to be part of New York as much as it wants to be part of Texas. We so much want to belong to that elite cadre of Milan, Paris, and Manhattan, that we follow fashion trends that have nothing to do with reality, like 90+ degree weather on Halloween.

    And now that I’ve married a foreign’r, I’ve learned some other perceptions of colors — for example, that light blue is only for children, and that purple is depressing. Which makes my wardrobe a temper tantrum.

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