Labor Day weekend has always been a time of transitions for me, starting with the earliest and biggest transition I’ve ever gone through: September 2, 1962, when my mother labored on Labor Day and brought me into the world. Officially marking the passage of my years has thus also always coincided with one of the biggest seasonal transitions visually, when the greens of summer turn to gold and yellow, amber and auburn, when Labor Day marks the beginning of autumn.
Like multitudes of people around the globe, Labor Day has often marked the transition from a more open summer schedule to the rigors of the school year. But it’s not just the annual returns to the same school that Labor Day evokes but transitions to new schools, each marking a new phase in my life.
Thus Labor Day weekend marked my transition from being at home all day with my family to half-days in kindergarten; it marked the transition from an elementary school I walked to with all the kids in my neighborhood to junior and senior high schools that required a commute on subway and bus. It marked the transition from a junior high curriculum specializing in challenging the mind to a high school curriculum more focused on challenging creativity. It beckoned the transitions from childhood to adulthood, from dependence to independence, from living at home to moving away to college and celebrating my first birthday away from home, and on my own, on Labor Day weekend 1979.
But even after the school year ceased to be a major influence on the shape of my days, Labor Day weekend continued to mark important transitions. It was on a Labor Day weekend that I escaped to a friend’s house in a genteel, hilly section of San Francisco. That weekend I finally decided, while wandering up and down those hills, that the troubled relationship I’d been hanging onto for seven years was simply not working, and hard as it was going to be, I needed to move out.
It was a little earlier than Labor Day, 15 years later, when I and my subsequent partner of 15 years decided that despite those years of loving and living together — despite our incredible deep affection for each other, despite both of our best hopes and concerted efforts, despite books and friends and counselors — our relationship wasn’t getting better, and we needed to acknowledge that it was over. We decided over the summer but it was made real in the fall, when I loaded up my brand new pickup truck and moved into my new place — the lease for which started, of course, over Labor Day Weekend.
My lease kept coming up for renewal on Labor Day weekend, thus also now the anniversary of my decision to move in with the woman of my dreams, leaving that once “new place” behind.
I’m not planning on moving out on any Labor (or other) Day to come! In fact, the only transition I’m expecting this year is the traditional academic one. The final semester of my three-year, 1600-hour certification to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique begins, of course, the Tuesday after Labor Day.
Julia L. Kay is a painter, printmaker, photographer, muralist and digital artist who was born and raised in New York City. The summer before second grade, her family visited San Francisco, and she knew immediately that she wanted to live in the Bay Area. Before she was free to move West, however, she needed to see to her education, so she finger-painted her way up through the grades, attended the High School of Music and Art in NYC, received her BA in photography from Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, and did graduate work at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. Finally, she came out to California and settled in sunny West Oakland, where she lived for 12 years before moving to San Francisco.
Julia’s images of people, plants and animals, distorted through the funhouse mirror of her imagination, have been shown in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, San Francisco, around the East Bay and on the Internet. Her work has won local competitions and a mural commission.