Driving through our suburban neighborhood a few Sundays ago I was struck by how Sundays have changed. The rush of traffic was far different than the quiet, lazy Sundays I knew as a child.
I was raised in a home where the Commandment to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy was taken quite literally. Back in those days, it seems, many folks did.
Family lore tells of a great-uncle who shaved on Saturday nights so he did not have to do so on Sunday in violation of the Commandment.
Our family wasn’t that fanatical about it but Sundays were distinct in our home. Dad insisted, for instance, that anything we viewed on television before church be religious in nature. That limited us to a Southern gospel music show on one of the three channels we could receive. It wasn’t comedy or action but it was music with a little zip so we kids watched and listened.
An avid reader, I always wanted to dig into the Des Moines Sunday Register first thing on Sundays but Dad put the newspaper away until after we returned home from church. I knew where he kept it but also knew not even to try to sneak a peek.
Though it looked like work to me, cooking apparently is not covered by the Fourth Commandment. Mom labored over a hot stove preparing a big Sunday dinner while the rest of us read the Sunday paper or fought with a sibling. Some Sunday school lessons and sermons just didn’t sink in.
Sunday afternoons were often long and boring. After a large dinner, we kids plopped our bloated bodies on the couch or the living room floor for a few minutes trying to come up with something to do. Mom sometimes handed us a dish towel and gave us something to do but that wasn’t what we had in mind.
On occasion we played catch in the backyard or rode our bikes around town. A walk down the railroad tracks to the trestle and back wasn’t out of the question. Sometimes we found enough kids to shoot hoops at the school. In the winter, we might go sledding or ice skating.
If we were lucky, cousins came to visit or we visited our grandparents where there were always plenty of cousins to go around.
When I got my own car, I learned that a Sunday afternoon drive with a friend or two was a great way to pass the time. On a few occasions during the winter we tied my brother’s sleds behind my ’55 Chevy and I towed them around town. Sure it was unsafe… but it was fun!
For several years after leaving home I had to work every-other-Sunday and began to appreciate the restful Sundays I knew as a kid.
By the time my wife and I moved to Sioux City the blue laws were fading and Sunday shopping was becoming popular. We often found ourselves spending Sunday afternoons behind a shopping cart.
After a large shopping mall opened five minutes from our home we were hooked. We hurried home from church to change clothes and then headed for the mall’s food court for Sunday dinner. We were not Norman Rockwell’s ideal family.
After making the rounds of the mall we headed for home and then spent the rest of the day resting, napping or doing some light activity.
One Sunday afternoon in the 1980s we took a leisurely drive in northwest Iowa and passed through Sioux Center where the Dutch still took Sundays seriously. The town was eerily quiet with only a convenience store and a fast-food restaurant open for business. I noted the contrast to the hustle and bustle we had left behind in the city an hour earlier and felt a tug of nostalgia.
These days I find myself looking forward to lazy Sunday afternoons. Even though we live less than 15 minutes from two big malls, we avoid them and the crowds they draw. Most Sunday afternoons you’re likely to find me snoring in my favorite chair, reading or working at my computer.
As I have grown older I have come to realize that the Fourth Commandment has a practical side and, if faithfully observed, can contribute to one’s health. We all need to rest. I don’t know about you but I need at least one day a week to rest. God knew we wouldn’t be kids forever.
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)