Reading a nineteenth century novel, I was struck by the fact that one character described another as "Intelligent, but not very wise." We would never say that now. We might describe a person as being not very sensible, or not very talented, but never as lacking in wisdom. The word has dropped out of the language, along with other useful descriptive words like stupidity, usury, and posterity.
Vacations by the sea, as I remember them from childhood, were always a bit of an ordeal. There was nothing to do on the beach except get sunburn or hypothermia, depending on the weather, but one bright spot was the “Punch and Judy” puppet show: a beach entertainment that never failed to attract a crowd of kids, including me. The show was always exactly the same, but we didn’t care. Just like modern kids at the movies, we were there for the violence and the political incorrectness.
We may be the last people left in the world who take snapshots on vacation and stick them into a photograph album. We have a library of albums as big as medieval Bibles in which our summer memories are lovingly preserved. The pictures have scarcely changed over the years. The main actors get a little older, and grayer, but the prints are so small and fuzzy that it scarcely matters. Every vacation place looks exactly like every other. Photograph albums give a reassuring sense of time standing still.
Labor Day means different things to different people: the last day of official summer, the last big outdoor party, or the best sales of the year. Some very senior citizens may even recall that Labor Day was once a celebration of the great American labor movement. But for those of us who have ever been involved in education, Labor Day means that a new semester and a new academic year are about to begin. The freshmen are coming, some more fresh than others, the hopeful, anxious class of 2017.