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Food for Thought

It's difficult to get through the end of summer and the beginning of the school year without pausing for a long weekend to celebrate Labor Day. When I was a kid, Labor Day was just another day when my dad didn't have to go to work. Often, this meant a trip to the river or one of the nearby lakes to go fishing – or a picnic at a state park. Sometimes, we'd drive the hour or so it took to get to my grandparents' farm for a big family dinner, or we'd end up with a houseful of relatives enjoying one of Mother's incredible pot-roast dinners.
Whatever we did, I had no idea what Labor Day was all about other than what my dad had said about it being a day when \those who labor get a day off.\ In those days, I had only one cousin, a boy cousin whose birthday was within a month of mine. Naturally we enjoyed a certain affinity because of our age and often found ourselves fending off my sisters' attempts to make life miserable for us. Later, after I was in high school and then in college, I was blessed with six more cousins who were so much younger than myself that I tend to look upon them as nieces and a nephew (only one was a boy, so the balance was still on the side of the females.) I think this balance had a lot to do with the sort of activities our family engaged in when we got together for holiday and vacation activities.
For instance, no one in our family played baseball or softball unless forced to in gym class at school. So we weren't much interested in organized sports, especially in the summer. Since we lived on an acreage, we spent a lot of time helping with household chores, working in the garden, tending our few farm animals and, in summer, we went to the town swimming pool nearly every hot afternoon for a few hours of cooling activity – no sweaty sun-bathing for us, we stayed in the water! Games, when we got around to playing them, were mostly badminton and croquet – not exactly macho sports. Being a family of all girls, we helped Dad with such jobs as shingling the barn, painting the house, mowing our huge lawn and running the miniature golf course. Dad built the golf course just before I started high school, and so from then on, Labor Day weekend was the grand finale of the miniature golf season and we no longer went on fishing trips or picnics to celebrate. So much for the idea of \those who labor\ getting a day off!
Everybody in our family was expected to be present around the table at mealtime on every day and for every meal, except for weekend breakfasts. Then, Mother and Dad usually breakfasted alone and we girls got to sleep in. School activities and part-time jobs were no excuse for missing a meal at home. Because of this unquestioned rule, school sports were pretty much out of the question except for attending a few football and basketball games. None of us ever even dreamed of playing school sports, going to music contests or other activities that might upset this unbreakable rule. This didn't mean that we weren't active. We got plenty of exercise – no doubt more than your average school age child gets today. It just wasn't called \extracurricular activities