It used to be our whole society understood what that meant. Folks went to church, cooked and ate a big meal and just generally spent the day enjoying their pleasures. The stores were closed so nobody shopped. Instead we puttered. We read or worked in the garden. People went on walks even Sunday drives. Remember those? You would pile into the car with your parents and a quilt next to a thermos of coffee in the front seat, and maybe make a stop for milkshakes at a drive in stand, or pull over and spread the quilt somewhere pretty and eat the homemade snacks that your mom had packed. I remember my dad tidying up his tools on Sunday afternoons or maybe putting up a shelf. He fished a lot on those Sundays too. My mom, always an avid reader, set aside Sundays for the big weekend paper and her pile of magazines. Sometimes she might throw a fluffy novel into the mix. The rest of the week she read more literary things, but Sunday was for Reader’s Digest, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping. Sometimes she gave herself a homemade facial on Sunday afternoons, mixing avocado, olive oil, honey and oatmeal into a big bowl and slathering it all over her face. Then she would place a fluffy towel right on top still warm from an oven set on low. Sometimes she’d add cucumbers to her eyelids and lean back into the deepest chair in our living room. The place would smell like the produce department at the grocery store while she “seeped”
Sunday was the day you rested. You put your feet up and took a deep breath. Sunday was a metaphor for the whole weekend. Saturday might get a little crowded with the hairdresser, washing the car, grocery shopping, and maybe cleaning up for a Saturday night card party. It was work but with some sense of fun and frivolity. Cartoons in the morning, and cheeseburgers for supper. But Sunday was the real day of rest. If it hadn’t gotten done by Sunday it could surely wait until Monday.
Please tell me what exactly happened to Sundays? Where did they go? Now everything is open always. We shop for shower curtains because the ones we have are dingy. We notice this and then somehow on Sunday it becomes unbearable. Or we run twenty errands, stopping by the dry cleaners, the pharmacy, the bookstore, and taking every kid in the neighborhood to play every sport that there is to play. People work on Sundays. Lots of them, not just the folks in the stores. Less people go to church, (which even for someone whose faith was always a little on the shaky side , was still a good place to sing and think about life and the big questions you never have time for on Tuesday. Plus the music was good, and there was always plenty to see…What color would Wanda’s nails be, and would she dare to wear that tarty dress again? Would Charlie Herman pinch Edna Jones the organ player? And would the Davidson kids do something truly awful, like the time one of them got stuck in the bell tower wedged in between the bell and the stairs as he tried to steal it and the fire department had to come. The clanging was stuck for an hour so church had to be postponed, only of course nobody left because we all wanted to see how it would turn out…….like that)
And with church out of the picture so is the reflection and even the big Sunday dinner, eaten at noon or 1 o’clock followed by the occasional Sunday nap…now long gone too. Sunday is almost indistinguishable from Tuesday except you might go into the office later, or do your work from home, or shop because there is a sense that if you stop spending for even a minute something really bad will happen. I suspect the whole global financial crisis is a result of these lost Sundays.
We moved to Vermont in a very real way to get Sundays back into our lives. We didn’t want our kids growing up in the malls. We wanted to find the natural world and because we were so alienated from it we figured we better move a thousand miles and see if anybody else had it. We wanted our kids to grow up to be thinkers and we felt like the noise in the city was making us all fuzzier and duller. We wanted to live the values we professed to believe. Then we got here and I wrote about every kind of weather and mountain. One’s inner thoughts can be depressingly dull it seems. We read every book we owned, and there are thousands of volumes, and then bought a whole bunch more. We talked politics but mostly just to each other, because there aren’t too many people and finding the two or three you will love out of a tiny pool is harder than it might seem. So then we made a New Year’s resolution to go to the city more and see art openings and interesting film. That has brought back a little more culture, and lots more to talk and think about. But still, we carefully never go on Sunday. Because at forty-six I have finally grasped the meaning of these Sundays. The peace from one really good Sunday can carry you more than just a week. A Sunday spent in the woods with the dogs, talking to the mountains which some might call praying and sometimes I do too, with the smell of woodsmoke guiding us home, can pretty well fix that really bad meeting on Wednesday, a call from the school, the kid who wrecked and needs a $2000 repair for the third time, and even allow for a sense of calm when the market dips below 8000. The magic of a few good Sundays in a row is that you come to realize that happiness and sadness don’t have to be tied to circumstance. You can be happy when things are hard and sad when the reasons are elusive. I learned about that once from a string of pretty perfect Sundays. It was a revelation and it has fed me in ways I still can’t fully describe.
At forty-six I may only have another couple thousand or so of Sundays left, I don’t intend to let one go ever again. My nails might be ragged, and my floors might be dirty. But if they didn’t get tended by Saturday they can surely wait one more day. Because tomorrow is Sunday. I have to read the paper and go for a walk with some kids and a few dogs. My husband and I might need a nap and maybe we will make cherry cobbler for supper. There probably ought to be some real food to go along with it but an omelet might be enough, or maybe pancakes and breakfast for supper. Because tomorrow is Sunday and by golly Albert sure knew what he was talking about…..