Columbus Day no longer has much to do with Christopher Columbus – except in the few areas that still have a parade – and maybe that’s a good thing. But ever since 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Act, Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, and Memorial Day have lost their original meaning and are three-day weekends devoted to tourism and consumerism.
Most of us remember “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1400 and 92.” We probably can name his three ships. And when I stood on the spot in the Alhambra where Columbus stood to ask Isabella and Ferdinand for money to support his trip, it was an emotional experience. But time has pulled back the curtain on our innocence, and we now ask how we can honor someone who claimed land which was not his to claim and rode rough-shod over the people already living on that land.
But we definitely need a holiday in mid-October, so let’s rename it. Maybe Harvestfest or Autumn Day. Here in New England, the trees are already dressed for the party with their leaves of red and gold. The celebratory foods are abundant: apples, apple pie, apple crisp, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin donuts – really anything apple or pumpkin. We need an excuse to eat them and to drink cider!
This weekend, more than any other, signals, to me, the change of seasons. At this time of year, my father would take down the awnings and hand them over to my mother who would repair any rips, using a huge sail needle. He would take off the screens and hang the storm windows. I am just sad that my favorite mid-October activity is no longer allowed: burning leaves. That may have been bad for the environment, but it was the most wonderful smell ever! Lincoln is busy seeding his fields and hoping to get rid of the hay he has baled. Not being a homeowner or a farmer, I have only to change over my closets and bureau drawers and dither over whether or not I really need snow tires.
The two felines, who live the life of ease in every season, are happy to watch out the windows as the squirrels rush about frantically gathering the last of their winter food, and the blue jays, who have been hidden in the woods during the summer, fly dangerously close to the windows and light on nearby branches.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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