Labor Day Picnic

On Labor Day 1999, my parents and I spent most of the day on the Winterthur Museum grounds, in Wilmington, Delaware, where we lived.  We explored the large craft fair being held there, and my mother and I bought the silver-and-glass necklaces that became our most-often-worn jewelry.  I have my necklace on today.  For a late lunch, we drove a few miles up Kennett Pike to the Mendenhall Inn, which had long been one of our favorite restaurants.

My parents at a picnic on the grounds of the Wilmington, Delaware, Quaker Meetinghouse – My mother is wearing her necklace from the Winterthur craft fair.

When we returned to Winterthur, we decided to park in the lot for the visitors’ center and take a jitney back to the craft-fair area and the field where the Delaware Symphony would perform that night.  We thought we were being clever to avoid the congested parking area near the Labor Day events, where everyone else attending the outdoor activities had parked.

After a bit more craft-fair browsing, we found a spot to sit in the field near where the orchestra would perform.  Picnicking families surrounded us.  The concert was magnificent.  It concluded with the full moon rising within the exploding stars of fireworks.

The other thousands headed to their nearby cars.  We quickly learned that no more jitneys were running at that hour.  Holding hands, the three of us walked down the long, otherwise-deserted hill to our car.  We walked on and on in the moonlight, creating my favorite of all my memories from all my years.  Here is my poem about the conclusion to the day.

Labor Day Picnic

The Moon rises over the trees—
First a hint of light,
Soon a crescent,
Then a round face with familiar features
Gazing on the thousands
Assembled for glorious lesser lights
Shining to music.

Later, Jupiter repeats the Moon’s ascent,
Balancing the Moon’s placid warmth
With its sparkling intensity.

Flash, boom:
Brilliance into the dark,
Surrounding the Moon smiling through
With a mustard-yellow grin,
Then nearly white again.

Intricate smoke trails almost as beautiful as the exploding colors,
Scenes like the end of the world by asteroids,
Scenes like the beginning of the Earth:
Golden trees, flowering, branching farther,
Drifting down into the dark sky
To be joined by rising, arching, pure color and light.

It is a beautiful life,
A moment to sear into memory
When the fireworks reach across the Moon
And the children twirl their neon necklaces—
Whirling in the shadowy almost-dark;
Sky-filling chandeliers of blue, red, gold, white, and green
Suspend themselves above us;
Our night is overtaken by light:
Circles of colors, human, momentary, framing the eternal.

And then in the moonlight,
Thousands stream for their cars,
A little lost,
A little tired and cold,
Carried on brightness
Into the September night,
Until it is only the three of us,
Holding hands,
Moving on together
Into the lovely silhouettes of evening
At the end of summer.

Photograph of the stars by Mason Hayek