The movie lineup always seemed to be the same. The couch was always my homebase — a comfortable headquarters in which to waste the day. And the tennis was always the sideshow, a constant soundtrack of grunts and popping racquets.
This was how you spent Labor Day. This was how I spent Labor Day. It could have been 1995 or 1996 or 1997. The year was inconsequential to the real story: a young kid having a day off school to relax and think about the upcoming events of the fall. High school football. Tailgates. Book reports. And so on.
I thought about Labor Day on Monday — what it used to mean, what it means today, how the old routine, movies on basic cable channels, tennis on a blurry 24-inch standard definition television, doesn’t exist today … and, well, couldn’t exist today.
On Monday, I watched 20-year-old Caroline Wozniacki outhustle Maria Sharapova to a straight-sets victory on the blue courts at Flushing Meadows.
It didn’t really feel like Labor Day. I still had to work. The memories of school are fading further and further into the past. And I rarely watch basic cable.
*Who needs movies on basic cable when you have Netflix?
But for a moment — with Wozniacki winning, and with the afternoon off, and with some average comedy on some average cable channel — I was transported back to 1996.
I remember one Labor Day in particular. And I can’t remember if it was TNT or TBS or USA — but I know the movie marathon was promoted as the Labor Day Leisure Day Special. And I remember, as a 10- or 11-year-old kid, there was nothing better.
It was wall-to-wall movies — most with Steve Martin or Chevy Chase. And there were commercials for television shows I never watched — like “Highlander” and “Silk Stalkings” — and there was Pete Sampras exchanging groundstrokes with some old nemesis … Petr Korda? Goran Ivanisevic? Patrick Rafter?
And maybe the movies are only memorable only to me.
But there was Steve Martin and Rick Moranis saving a Little League field in “My Blue Heaven.” And there was “Problem Child 2” … and the subsequent question of our time: why was this movie ever made?
There was “Fletch” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” — and if we were lucky, “Three Amigos.”
And there was nothing better. This was a time when it was still considered socially acceptable to record television movies on VHS Tapes. This was a time when, if you weren’t one of the lucky ones with HBO, and my family surely wasn’t, you still had to go to the video store to find movies without commercials.
And so, as I watched Wozniacki, a 20-year-old former prodigy, a player a full four years younger than me, I wondered where all the time had.
And then… another Labor Day was left in the distance.