Once in a while I have a conversation with my kids about what things were like back in the “old days”. I tell them about how all the phones were attached to the walls with cords, how our school papers were written by hand in blue BIC pen ink, and how if you wanted cash you had to go to the bank during the work week, stand in line, and ask a live person to give you some.
And I tell them about Sundays.
Back in the day, the week had an unchanging rhythm. Monday through Friday we would go to school, do our jobs, and be serious about life. On Saturdays we would see our friends, do our yard work, and errands. Finally, on Sundays, our lives would slow down, and we would become focused on family and home based activities. We had to be, as there were few school activities, and by law almost all the stores were closed for the Sabbath.
Our day would begin with breakfast, a change into our “good” clothes, and church service at Trinity Episcopal just down the street from our house. We listened to sermons with elusive meanings, sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” as the collection plate was passed, and tried to think Christian thoughts.
Once we shook the minister’s hand and walked home, we freed ourselves from our church duds and began our Sunday afternoon routine. The kids would go to their rooms and do homework, while the parents began preparing our mid-day meal. As we did our chemistry problems and German conjugations the smell of something roasting in the oven would make its way upstairs, often paired with the muted sounds of Maria Callas, Earl Fatha Hines, or Herb Alpert.
At around 2:30 we would all gather for our Sunday afternoon “dinner”, say grace, and spend time together literally breaking bread, and sharing whatever we felt like sharing. Sometimes our meals ended when our bellies were full, but often they would last for hours, with two or three or all of us talking until the candle wax was pooling on the table. At 7:30 we would have pancakes and French toast, and watch Walt Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color”... on our Sylvania black and white TV.
At some point, after we all left for college and began our adult lives, the tradition of the mid-day Sunday meal ended. The blue laws were taken off the books, and Sundays began to look like Saturdays to many of us. The afternoon Sunday meal was replaced with sports events, yoga classes and trips to the office and mall. We gained convenience and productivity, and were able to have Sundays be whatever we wanted them to be. But what we gained in flexibility, we lost in a regular connection with our family, and maybe with ourselves.
I propose we start a movement to bring back Sunday dinners one week a month. It could be the antidote to the 24/7 frenzy we seem to throw our lives into each week, and make us better friends, spouses, parents, and professionals.
To those of you who still carry on the tradition I salute you. For the rest of us, let's get our errands done on Saturday, and make Sunday again a day of real rest and re-connection. Let's cook something aromatic, put on the music, and sit down together for a leisurely meal with people we love...smack in the middle of the afternoon.