The day was typical. In and out of the minvan, tag-teaming parents (“you take those two, and I’ll take the others”), fast food meals on the go, one hand on the steering wheel, the other hand whipping a granola bar hard to the back seat, hoping not to hit someone in the head.
A normal day of basketball games, cheer practice, birthday parties to get to, pick-ups and drop-offs, and constant running. My husband in one direction, and I in the other. And while I was chauffeuring children, rushing from one side of town to the other, my 9-year-old girl in the back seat suddenly has a breakthrough idea she is excited to share with me.
“You know what there should be?”
I am half listening…one eye on the road, the other on the clock…I am on a tight schedule, you know.
“Umm…no, Annie…tell me…what should there be?”
“There should be a day just for family. You know, like nothing to do really, no where to go. You just stay with your family, make a fancy dinner, get dressed up, and do fun things together. A day for the family!”
“Yeah, Annie, that is a good idea” I tell her.
And then after another second or two goes by, it dawns on me. And as I furiously drive to who knows where, I look up into the rear view mirror, at her big brown eyes, and I shout, almost in disbelief, “THIS is that day Annie! SUNDAY! Sunday is supposed to be that family day!”
Do you remember Sunday? I do. And so I told Annie all about it, when I was a little girl. I told her about how all the stores were closed.
“Even Target????” she asked.
Then, much to her horror, I broke the news that there was no Target. I told her about Sunday meals at my grandparents, her papa’s mom and dad. My grandmother, in beige sagging stockings, with slippered feet, her apron over her housedress, standing over a pot of sauce simmering. I would pull up a chair from her formica kitchen table and just watch; the stirring and mixing of a great big pot of comfort.
My grandparents lived in a small two bedroom apartment in Astoria, the same home my father grew up in, and I always loved to imagine my father, as a little boy, in that same kitchen, over that same pot of goodness.
The dining room table, that now sits in my own dining room, was always set with her best china and silver. She had this tiny silver bull, that held silver swords as toothpicks in its back. I was fascinated by it and still wonder where it is today. The chairs were crowded and crammed around the table, just waiting for the gathering of loved ones. And always, at the end of the table, that small piano stool, unsteady on three legs, for one of us little ones to perch upon. The same piano stool my father had told me he sat on when he was a little boy. He only learned how to play one song sitting on that stool. Moon River.
“I hated the piano,” he would laugh.
Grandma showed me how to form the perfect meatball, while Grandpa was consistent in giving me hugs and whispering, “I love you” in Italian, all the while leading me to believe that out of all of his grandchildren, he loved me the most. Opera played softly in the background, my Aunt humming along to the tune.
In the living room, locked up in the secretary desk, Grandma neatly kept the toys for us to play with. A plastic set of drink cartons…one chocolate milk, one regular milk, an orange juice. And a toy phone.
Annie, looking dissatisfied asks, “That’s it? Those were the only toys???”
And I have to laugh, because yup! That was it. And you know what? We didn’t feel any lacking.
There were no video games, no ipods, ipads or iphones. Nothing electronic. Nothing to disconnect us from the people we were with, nothing to keep us from the grace of the moment. No e mail to check. No text to send. Nothing to tweet.
And here is the thing: We were content. Because if the toys didn’t hold me, Grandma’s delicate figurines and china treasures were always there to intrigue curious hands and saucer sized eyes. Oh, I knew not to touch them, but always trusted that if I waited long enough, Grandma would take the musical ballerina down, wind her up carefully…and she would dance and spin to the tune and I would stare at her beauty, going round and round.
And even if we were bored, we certainly never let on. After all, it was Sunday at Grandma’s. It is what we did as a family. This was tradition. This was Sunday. All of us together.
What happened? What happened to Sunday? To all of us together?
How did Sunday become sports day? All day cheer competitions? Football games an hour away? Backs of minivans loaded with lawn chairs and coolers of Gatorade and orange slices?
How do we get back to Sunday meaning nothing but church and a family meal? The Sunday where dad sported a tie, and mom slipped on her heels, and the shoe polish came out to tidy up your mary janes? The Sunday that had the kitchen smelling like meatballs in sauce, and long car drives to see grandma and her dish full of butter scotch?
Where did Sunday go?
It is a real challenge today. Most weekends, I find that in order to accommodate all of the kids activities, my husband will take a couple of children to Mass on Saturday night, and then I take the others on Sunday. And dinner is whatever we have left, reheated and thrown together, with little care at all.
I have soothed my uneasiness with this by telling myself, “At least we are all making it to Mass.” But if I am being truthful, I don’t like this. It feels disordered. Disconnected. Unholy, this idea of “fitting mass in.”
I want to get Sunday back. I want what I had as a child. I want my kids to have what I had as a child. I want what Annie wants. A day for just the family.
It is time we get back to Sunday being the Lord’s day. So Annie has come up with a plan. We are bringing back the special Sunday night family feast.
During the week, Annie will help me search through cookbooks, picking out recipes that would make a great Sunday meal. We will write a family prayer, we will make a special Sunday placemat, we will use the good tablecloth, and we will take out Grandma’s fine china and silver.
We will cram chairs tight around, open seats, in anticipation of the people we love the most to gather and be with us. We will light candles, and we will buy flowers, and we will absolutely turn the television off.
There will be no texting or tweeting, just us, together, grateful for the right here right now.
And who knows, I might even play a little opera.
Oh…and Annie also insists, “we need to dress up.” This might not go over too well with her oldest brother, but I assured her that I am in.
“Mom? Maybe we should invite Grandma and Grandpa to our feast?” she joyfully suggests. And I cannot help but to smile and think, is it any wonder why Jesus asks the little children to come to Him??? Apparently, they have all the right ideas.
Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the Lord your God commanded -Deuteronomy 5: 12
How do you keep Sunday a holy day? A day for the family? What traditions are you passing on to your own children?
Copyright 2014 Laura Phelps