Today is Labor Day, traditionally the last day of summer vacation, and the date of the last barbecue of the year in the northern states. Here in New Orleans, we keep on going with the outdoor grill until it just gets too cold and rainy for it to make sense--sometime in late December.
My fondest memory of a Labor Day picnic is of a day in 1960 or thereabouts. I was about nine or ten, and my extended family--including several aunts, uncles, and cousins--gathered on the lakefront, near the London Avenue Canal. We all went swimming in Lake Pontchartrain, descending into the water down the steps of the seawall. The water was clear enough that we could see crabs walking on the bottom.
The adults sat around drinking Falstaff Beer from cans. On one of those cheap round barbecue pits everybody had then, they cooked hot dogs, chicken, and hamburgers. We all had so much fun that when we packed up to go home, after what seemed like eight hours or so, my mother said to the patch of grass where we'd spent the last eight hours, "Good-bye! See you next year!" But we never did that again, and in a way I'm glad. A Labor Day picnic couldn't possibly be better than that one.