A quiet Labor Day

by Walt Maguire
Posted 9/3/21

There will be Labor concerts, Labor Day cookouts, even Labor Day last-minute bingeing of summer movies. Some of this will be loud. There will be firecrackers.

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A quiet Labor Day

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There will be Labor concerts, Labor Day cookouts, even Labor Day last-minute bingeing of summer movies. Some of this will be loud. Some will be sweetly bucolic, the sound of songbirds and cicadas and small children asking, as all have done for tens of thousands of years, why the sky is blue. And some of it will be thumping bass and drums and an almost ritualistic attempt to drive the oncoming winter off with Kanye West and the Rolling Stones played at top volume.

There will be firecrackers.

Fireworks are handled differently based on local geography. The ballpark will likely have a nice display, exploding over the scoreboard and visible from as far as Mt. Airy, if the weather is right. In Wyndmoor, with its ranch houses and rolling lawns, people set them off in the driveway starting at dusk. Occasionally the trajectory goes wrong and one whizzes over a low roof and into a neighbor’s back yard, either a merry treat or a menacing missile, depending how far it lands from the crab dip. In Germantown, there’s a polite agreement to set them off in empty parking lots, far from neighbors. Though this usually happens between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. and echoes off the buildings for miles.

Dogs have the worst of it; if there are fireworks in a designated park at a designated time, you can keep your nervous dog from the bangs. When it’s three of your neighbors doing it from their front step at whatever time they’ve run out of hot dogs, it can be hard to escape.

Cats have it easier, in the sense they are usually annoyed about something anyway.

I enjoy a good firecracker; the problem is when and where. I’ve heard reports from friends about their confrontations with neighbors about the noise frightening their pets or keeping their children awake, and sometimes there are neighbors who view this as an attack on their personal freedom and right to behave as they wish with no regard for the personal security of those around them. Imagine this attitude for any subject but firecrackers.

Last summer, as we huddled in lockdown, it was not uncommon to hear firecrackers several nights a week; at least, we hoped they were firecrackers. The protests had us all on edge. We weren’t entirely confident those in charge had any idea what to do, other than say they were listening.  By this time last year, the distant booms in the night felt less a threat and more a signal fire, a message across the night that people were still out there, trying to get by, to be found. This summer was different. There were noticeably fewer firecrackers, and they seemed more connected to parties. Here’s hoping this Labor Day feels like a celebration for the whole neighborhood. Including dogs and cats.

Walt Maguire

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