My mother always kept library books in the house, and one rainy Sunday afternoon – this was before television, and we didn’t even have a radio – I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered I was reading and enjoying what I read.—Beverly Cleary
Growing up in the home of a Southern Baptist minister meant Sundays were anything but calm or quiet. There was a fairly precise schedule to the day: Up at 7, showers, dressed, breakfast, family devotions, all before 8:30 in the morning. There would be Sunday School, then church, then around 6 or so in the evening, depending on the time of year, Training Union, which became Church Training in the 70s, then evening services, then often a rather pointless choir rehearsal and sometimes a youth activity. The day was full.
What little “down time” there was on a Sunday came in that brief period after lunch (which Mother typically had prepared for dining as soon after the service as possible) and the snack that passed as dinner before heading out to church again. This time was for napping. Always. No excuses. Interruptions were frowned upon. Typically, Poppa would sit in his recliner, leaf through the local paper a bit, maybe turn on a football game that he wouldn’t watch, the fall sound asleep. Mother would go to their room and sleep while Squirt and I were given the instruction to, at the very least, stay quiet.
Such a respite only came on Sundays and was almost as sacred as the services on either end of the day. Poppa loathed allowing anyone to schedule anything on Sunday afternoon and on the rare occasion he was forced to do so one could be certain that his mood would not be as pleasant and accommodating as normal. Poppa’s take was that if God rested on Sunday, certainly he meant for us to take a couple of hours to do the same.
As I grew older and moved away from home, my Sunday habits changed. My view of church changed rather dramatically and Sunday became a day that was given to the very respite Poppa tried to squeeze into a couple of hours. I’d start with the Sunday edition of the New York Times, coming up for air and a coffee refill between articles. Brunch back then was less of a social gathering and more of a way to quiet the growing rumble in the stomach without actually admitting that half the day was already gone. I acquired my father’s habit of sitting in a recliner, turning on the football game, and promptly falling asleep. Sunday evenings were for a quiet dinner, maybe some cuddling, reading, or, more likely, laundry so we’d have something clean to wear the next morning.
Now, Sundays are more complicated, less quiet, and too often frustrating. There are too many people who can only shoot on Sundays. The local paper rarely holds any information I’ve not already seen online and even the long-form enticement of the Times isn’t as enjoyable as it once was. I do still hold to brunch because, damn it, I’m not cooking anything before 10:00 if it can be avoided. Laundry is still a must, and so is reading, but increasingly that reading is done through some form of digital media, whether the Kindle or this large-screened smartphone I carry.
The sanctity of Sunday is largely gone now. Kat is frequently at the salon, which means I’m stuck with the kids (or they’re stuck with me). Having time to read quietly means getting up about the same time the party people are getting home. I can make the kids wait for brunch, but they want lunch an hour later and a large snack an hour after that. Sunday afternoon nap? My body aches for one, especially after getting up so early, but the kids would likely burn down the house if I dozed for even a minute. Peace comes only after they’re in bed for the night and by that time I’m rather ready for bed myself.
I understand now, more than ever, the value of a quiet, thoughtful, Sunday. I’m hoping that as the children get older we can hand them a good book and not see them for a couple of hours, knowing they are being sufficiently entertained and, perhaps, even learning something. I can dream. I can hope. I have a library card and I’m not afraid to use it.
We need to allow ourselves downtime; just one day when we don’t intrude on others, nor they on us. May we have one day, please, that is a little more void of noise and a little more contemplative. We need time to re-asses our world, our place in it, and then get our shit together before tackling another week. Not allowing for some sanctity on Sunday is a fast trip to spending one’s vacation either in rehab or the mental health center, and there’s already a shortage of space at both.
Take some time. Breathe. Read. I’ll try to do the same, right after I fix brunch for these heathens.