Growing up, Sundays were a busy day for my family. Early Sunday morning was spent at church for Sunday School and worship service with our friends. Friends and music are what I remember most from all of that - so much heartfelt, beautiful music - organ, voice, guitar, banjo - so good. Leaving church later in the morning we'd stop at the most-loved Cookie Jar, where each of my three sisters and I could choose two cookies for ourselves, amidst the dozen or so that my parents would buy for delivery on our next stop in the day. It was always two butterscotch cookies for me. (Because I was a creature of habit just as much then as I am now.) Then we'd head to our next stop of the day, visiting one or two of the elderly folks my parents helped care for. There was Mrs. Shaw who lived in a farmhouse so much like the layout of mine now that sometimes I swear I'm going to see her when I turn the corner (in the best of ways, she was quirky and lovely). When we mowed her lawn in the summer, she wouldn't let us leave without sitting on her front porch for a glass of freshly made (from the powder, naturally) Lipton iced tea. There were visits to Mrs. Norwood, where we spent a great deal of time looking for her cat, Blackie, who liked to hide from her owner's blind eyes under the beds and in the closets. We were the closest thing she had to family, having no children of her own, and it's her mother and father napkin rings that once belonged to her own parents, that Steve and I use at dinner every night. There was Mrs. Belcher whose wall of cuckoo clocks I was enamoured with, and who had so many bird feeders outside her door that lying under a tree in her backyard felt like an adventure to another land, entirely far away from the suburban backyard that it really was. And there was Mr. Reynolds, with his little house at the end of a dead end street and a library full of old, old books that made the room feel simultaneously a little spooky and entirely mystical and magic to me, the shy girl that I was, who loved to hide in a book whenever it was possible. One day he noticed me running my fingers along the edges of the books on the shelf, playing some kind of a word game with the titles of the books with no one but myself....and stopped the chat with my father to be certain that I took a book home with me.
And that's a very long preamble to this post that was meant to be simple, which is honestly a little bit like how those Sundays sometimes felt. They were full days - good days, I remember them to be - but also full of itchy tights, words we didn't always understand, and so many moments where it was important that we be quiet and still. All the washing and cleaning and sitting and praying and then more sitting and sitting some more. But that was only until the early afternoon, at which point we'd have time enough to stop by home for a change of clothes, and finally be on our way to our nearby grandparents for Sunday Dinner. An open invitation to all their children and grandchildren nearby, we never knew who was going to be there - which cousins and aunts and uncles would make it. But it could be counted on that Nana would have a roast in the oven, and regardless of who and how many showed up, there was pantry stocked full from which she could pull another can of stewed tomatoes or green beans. Walking up the stairs into their kitchen, she'd waste no time in putting all of us right to work chopping vegetables or setting the tables. And thus, Sunday Dinner began....cousins weaving in and out, family all around. After dinner in the winter time, we'd gather around the fire for chinese checkers, with a basketball game on in the background. In the summertime, outside we all went to help them in the garden, or with the tractor, or for a walk in the woods where we could run free.
All these years later, my Sundays look very different than they did at the age of ten. But I still, each Sunday, get a little bit of a twitch at just about noontime to start making dinner. And with a freezer full of our own pork, why not a roast each time? It's an almost weekly habit, and one that I hope never goes away. Sometimes, our old neighbor joins us, or friends that might be passing this way. If we're lucky, we might have the flurry of cousins here for the day. And some days in the middle of making dinner, or saying a blessing before we start our meal, I let my mind wander and imagine what Sunday Dinner could look like in ten, twenty, thirty years at this same table. Daydreaming goodness. After dinner is nearly just as delightful as the meal itself, having the kitchen cleaned up and some of the day still ahead of us. We can sit around the fire to knit, read and play games. Or this time of year, with the snow melting enough so that we can move around freely, and the temperatures warming so that we can walk to the back of the property without freezing, we can head out for our own early evening, post-dinner walk in the woods. It's a rhythm I treasure.