Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Simplicity

When I was a child, Sundays were sacred. No work was done, dinner was in the early afternoon and quiet pleasures were enjoyed. It was the day we climbed into the back seat of the DeSoto and went for a Sunday drive.

I loved Sunday drives. Dad was home from work at Danbury Airport, gas was cheap and there were always new roads to explore. Rambling along the back roads, taking lefts and rights at will, we passed beautiful homes and wide expanses of green. Somehow we always ended up at the bakery for freshly baked hard rolls for steak sandwiches. It was where we perused the cases for just the right dessert to share after a light supper, usually napoleons thick with custard and flaky layers of pastry. A shiny coat of chocolate covered the top. Carefully placed in a white cardboard box and tied with a striped string, our dessert sent out tantalizing aromas. Dad would carry the box out to the car being careful not to tip it and spoil the topping. The fragrance filled the car on the drive home and our anticipation of the treat grew with every mile.

Details are fuzzy but I remember the bakery being in a big old house near the hat factory in Danbury, Connecticut. We'd turn into the drive and stop close to the house. Later, the New York Bake Shop came into the picture. I remember Dad and Mom winding out the wing windows beside their seats to channel the sweet breeze into the car.Was the radio playing? I imagine it was, but can't hear it in my mind.

Sunday was a family day.  Sunday night baths and into pajamas early to watch Disney before bedtime. Dessert would be divvied up and eaten in the living room before the TV - in itself a special treat. Occasionally, when we didn't take a drive, it would be ice cream - vanilla, strawberry and chocolate in one little pint box. Mom carefully peeled open the box and divided the block into slices, two bigger ones for them and a skinnier slice for me, before setting the flattened box on the floor for the cat to lick.

Sometimes we would visit family friends, sitting outside on sunny, summer afternoons or around the kitchen table chatting about the week while we kids played. Leaving the adults to their coffee and conversation, we would create imaginary worlds and explore the nooks and crannies of the house or neighborhood. Kids can find ways to play so easily. We never seemed to have a problem coming up with something to do.

Maybe, on the way home, we'd stop at the Dairy Bar by the airport for vanilla cones topped with jimmies or, if we were really lucky, dipped in chocolate.

Sunday's activities may have varied, but the quietness of the day prevailed. I liked the structure of my childhood days. Bedtimes (although I resisted them in the summer when it was still light out at 7 PM), cartoons on Saturday, being outdoors as often as possible - what seemed restrictive then now seems comforting and joyous.

The freedom to explore neighborhoods, gullies and streams, climb hillsides and walk to neighboring towns alone or with friends was a normality that has become absent from our children's lives. I credit my explorations for my love of traveling, my thirst for learning. How will the restrictions born of fear and danger change the people yet to come? Is safety an impediment to wonder and growth? Or will common sense prevail and wonder still bring a sparkle to eyes? I hope so.

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