Growing up, Labor Day meant school was just about to begin, and the day was spent in Fremont picnicking and grilling out with my cousins. It was an exciting, fun day.
It wasn’t until later I understood the significance of the day, and the men and women it honors.
I grew up surrounded by blue-collar workers. I remember finding rubber nubs from the tire factory, in my grandpa’s work shirt pockets. My Uncle John worked odd hours and long shifts at the GM plant. Both my grandmas worked in a factory.
And of course, my dad. I wrote this poem about Dad for Visions and Verse II – an exhibit of ekphrastic poetry. Ekphrastic poetry is poetry inspired by another piece of art. In this case, a painting by my uncle, Phillip E. Schmitt. Uncle Bud, as we called him, taught how to re-upholster furniture at Goodwill.
Tool and Die Maker
(after Soul of Man by Philip E. Schmitt)
The 3 x 5 inch scratch papers are numbered 1-2-3
the sketches lettered A-B-C
lines straight, sharp
Dad drew the diagrams days before my visit
draws me back forty, fifty years
when he was a journeyman tool and die maker
You had to figure out the order of each bend
each one a different set up
Now these circles are punches, these are stops . . .
His vocabulary of sheet metal, bend allowance, stress
rolls off his tongue with the same thrill and precision
he worked his protractors, micrometers, calipers
standing at the workbench ten to fourteen hours a day
You really remember those test boxes I brought home?
But this afternoon as my eighty-year-old dad revels
in his work and my admiration, I remember
the smell of eggs frying for sandwiches
the clink of a metal lunch pail buckle
waking to find my math and spelling homework
but never my English
checked, waiting to be corrected
my eyeglasses cleaned and sparkling
the sound of the garage door opening and closing
hours before dawn
Here’s Dad at work!
I was fortunate enough to write a letter to Dad long before he passed away, thanking him for his hard work, all those things I noticed growing up but took for granted. When my sisters and I cleaned out our childhood home, I found the letter he’d kept.
Today, I thank all of you who still work in those back-breaking jobs that can be tedious, but are so important in keeping our country going. Yesterday at mass our petitions were for laborers – bus drivers, waitresses, those who answer sirens, construction workers, farmers . . . the list went on. I hope you’ve had the chance to grill out, picnic, and enjoy your family sometime this weekend.
Got me kind of chocked up Kim 1 you are so go at expressing yourself that it makes me feel like i was there to see , & hear all of these wonderful moments ! So many times I have wished that I had been brought up with our family in Galion . The few times in my life that we went there when we were kids was never enough . So many times now i could kick my self for not realizing what the really important things were . I love you so much Kim !