The Death of Summer and its Final Barbecue

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Labor Day marks the official end of summer. The Tuesday following kids head back to school.

On the west coast anyway. Elsewhere in the US, kids have been back to school for a week or two already. It’s hard for those on this coast to let go of summer.

Isn’t it a given that the preferred cooking method after Memorial Day is the barbeque? Gas, propane, wood or charcoal may fuel it, but it’s the way beef is done – in July.

Sometimes a handful of family members might recline on the deck at our house. Other years, we’ve loaded up the essentials and taken our Farewell to Summer Party to a park.

So it was this year. Since our youngest son is already in class at college (that Quaker school he attends does things a little “other coastal,” if you get my meaning), it was a gathering with friends. Specifically friends from our church.

Hot dogs and hamburgers might make the grade during the summer, but at the last barbecue, a few other dishes are required.

First of all, fresh corn on the cob is essential. Roasted directly in the coals wearing its own husk makes it downright delicious. Grilling it on the barbie will satisfy, but if you bring out the boiling water, we will cry.

September is corn harvest season on the left coast. You can see overloaded semi-trucks with the golden delicacy. Come back in October for the largest corn maze this side of the Rockies.

Another staple on Labor Day is watermelon. The best watermelons in the world are grown in Hermiston, Oregon. I can eat the heart out of one of these juicy red mamas.

In fact, one of my worst memories from tweenhood centers around my ability to do just that. Apparently, it’s okay to eat your own heart out, but it’s a heinous act of selfishness to eat the heart out of a watermelon.

So said the blistering tongue-lashing my father gave me when I at the heart out of that melon. It sat covered and minding its own business atop the washing machine. It even had black seeds in it. Actually, they marked the edges of the succulent heart.

Back to the last barbeque…it’s nice to recline in the camp chairs around a fire pit roasting corn. It’s even more glorious when the sun agrees to drive the clouds away and spill a golden spotlight on the gathering.

Games you might enjoy at summer’s goodbye bash: volleyball, badminton, softball or horseshoes. Regardless of the choice, there will be lots of ribbing for the losers (as if losing wasn’t its own form of ridicule). My mom liked to call this “Love talk.” You only tease those you love, she said. The worse the taunting, the deeper the love.

Love flows at both ends of the horseshoe pits. Camp chairs line the sides (a safe distance away) and love talk sails with more regularity than ringers.

Alas, summer gives up the ghost for another nine months. The red, yellow and brown leaves already announce autumn’s arrival.

Best of all, school starts. But for the second time since 1997, that means nothing to me. The Tuesday after Labor Day is just another day pulled up to my desk letting my fingers find the right way to spill words on a page.

Summer may have ended, but my novel has a few more chapters before it makes way for a new season.

What traditions do you have for Labor Day?

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