Like most kids, my son looks forward to the holidays with a proliferation of candy and presents (read: Halloween and Christmas). Unlike most kids, my son also looks forward to Labor Day. He talks about it all summer. He tells anyone who will stop and listen to him that Labor Day is one of his favorite holidays and why.
I’m sure on some obscure level he’s aware that Labor Day is a celebration and day of rest for laborers (he’ll find out what that’s all about soon enough). That isn’t why he loves it. His love for Labor Day stems from a neighborhood tradition: Rocket Day. Every year on Labor Day at 9 am, we gather in the neighborhood field (where we also play football on Thanksgiving, and the trophy is a toilet), with donuts and rockets in hand.
We then spend the next couple hours shooting off rockets, eating sundry sugar-laden goodies, and chatting. A rocket goes up, and a pack of seemingly feral kids swarms left, then right, then forward, then backward, until they catch up with the descending rocket. Meanwhile, another rocket has been loaded and is waiting for a little hand to push the red button. The accompanying soundtrack is loud, high-pitched screams (from the kids and sometimes me) and chattering adults periodically drowned out by the loud screech of a rocket launching.
It’s a tradition that started over thirty years ago in my small neighborhood-that-is-also-its-own-town. Although we’re not far from Denver, we, like our homes, are at times trapped in the fifties. We celebrate our Rockwellian ways and often look for opportunities to create new traditions that encapsulate Rockwell’s sentimental portraits of America. We cheer ourselves, as we chow down on donuts (and mimosas if someone thinks of it), with thoughts of how ideal our little town is and how lucky we are to live here.
On days like today, I can’t think of one good reason not to bask in the happy glow of small-town American life. Although I feel a little guilty, I’m taking a day off (and saving the other 364) from worrying about the world around us. Today I’m going to be overly sentimental about the simple pleasures of raising a family in a simple and wonderful community. Happy Rocket Day!