It has been on my mind for some time to describe for you an average Sunday. Many years ago there was an advertisement on TV showing comfortable middle class people, probably a couple, sitting at a comfortable kitchen table drinking designer coffee and eating something healthy and reading…the New York Times, back, assumably, when people read the New York Times. There was probably some comfortable music in the background and then a voice coming through the TV announcing to all us schlops who didn’t know yet that ‘Sunday was made for the New York Times’.
Our Sundays are so far opposite of that commercial that it’s hard to believe that we’re on the same planet, certainly not of the same world view.
So here’s how it normally shakes out, starting, of course, with Saturday.
Saturday morning Matt and I are always under the mistaken impression that we can sleep till 7. We desperately hang on, fending the children off with bananas and bottles of milk, but eventually its just not worth it and we all give up and, well, Matt gets up while I drink tea. Then suddenly, inspite of having woken up so early, I’m late for Bible Study and flinging myself and two or three children into the car to get to church. It is Always my intention to print off the bulletin after Bible Study, but instead I usually hang around gabbing and then decide, foolishly, that I’ll “come back later in the afternoon” because “I just need a small lunch” and a chance to “do a few things”. All of which means that I come home, eat some delicious sandwich that Matt has invented, fall asleep on the couch or get stuck catching up on blogs I missed during the week. About 3 or 4 in the afternoon I suddenly realize that the house has become wrecked and supper is almost upon us and that “it would be better just to get up early on Sunday and run over to print”. Matt recklessly agrees to this idea almost every Saturday afternoon. As supper is in progress I generally simultaneously start making some new item for the atrium, organize clothes and shoes for the morning, make various lists, trim bangs and do baths (although sometimes I’m able to manipulate Matt into doing the baths). Then I’m up late painting little wooden people, or finishing up flash-like cards, or gluing bits of things together, all for the atrium. Matt and I fall late into bed.
So you can see what kind of morning we are set up to have. There’s no “reading the paper” or “enjoying a cup of coffee” or “eating breakfast”.
Matt wakes up at 4 to practice and fine tune his sermon. He always has milk all lined up in the fridge the night before and when he brings me tea at 5 or sometimes 6 when he forgets the time, the tray is laden with milk for all the kiddos. Milk in the morning, for children, is like coffee for grown ups, if it’s not the first thing, the day starts off Very Badly. More often than not, its 6, not 5, at which point I am in a total panic, lying in bed under the pillow, staring at the clock and thinking, ‘if I don’t get up in the next 3 and a half minutes, I’m going to be in serious trouble’. I manage to fend of reality as long as possible by pouring one saucer of milk for Frances (E’s cat), sleeping while she drinks it, pouring a second saucer of milk for my cat, sleeping while she drinks it (because I wouldn’t want to disturb either cat by pouring my own milk), drinking my own tea, and then running around hysterically waking up and dressing all the children. Meanwhile, instead of calmly and reasonably finishing up his sermon, printing it out and getting ready for church, Matt often rewrites whole sections, or stops to admire and play with the children so that very often 7:30 has come and gone and we are Not in the car breaking the speed limit to church but rather still finding collars, collar buttons, hair bows (because I picked the wrong one out the night before and everybody is crying), lists and Sunday school material. And of course, when I haven’t printed the bulletin the night before, and haven’t gotten up early, I’m madly and desperately printing and folding while the 8 o’clockers arrive.
That is the critical moment. If I can get all the bulletins done and the readings printed off, and the 10:30 bulletin humming out of the machine by 8am precisely, the service starts and calm rolls down like an ever rolling stream. The children ride around the parish hall in cars and push toys eating bananas, toast, the rest of the Friday Morning Men’s Breakfast, and strawberry wafer cookies. The best person in the world pours boiling water over 3 bags of tea as I emerge from the office, successful in my efforts. I fuss with my Material and eventually wander up to the atrium.
This morning, as I read ‘God Who Has No Hands’ to my class I listened to E and A arguing loudly with each other about the nature of the Good Shepherd. Their argument displayed perfectly the difference between a 3-6 year old child and a 6-12 year old child.
A: The Good Shepherd is a Boy! He is a Boy!
E: I know he is, but my friend Julia is like him.
A: No, because she is a girl and the Good Shepherd is a boy!
E: Yes, but she is kind, like the Good Shepherd, and she cares about many things.
A: No, she is a girl.
At which point the catechist intervened. E should really move to level two but she would be all by herself. I think I will read her ‘God Who Has No Hands’ this week.
After Sunday School I am told many things by many different people which I try to write on One piece of paper, so that will remember later. Things like: next Sunday evening I will need to go to church to help make 25 apple pies for the Harvest dinner, or one EM has had to stop that ministry for a season for health reasons and it would be really great if we could train the three new people who want to learn This Week sometime so that we don’t run into trouble, or everyone should go take as many well ripe bananas as they can from the church kitchen with which to make banana bread, if they want to. At the same time I am trying to hustle my own children into the service, make my way to sing with the choir, count the congregation, encourage Someone to turn on the heat in the building, get the tween girls sitting quietly in the front row poised to take notes for the sermon and make eye contact with Matt that we are all on track. This morning someone removed the healing oil away from its spot so that before praying for anyone during communion, I had to wander around looking for it, dragging an angry toddler behind me. I managed to sing half the communion hymn. After the service I am told many more things by many people but usually there is cake, and another blessed fresh pot of strong black tea.
We generally make it home between two and three in the afternoon. Today we went to visit a lady in the nursing home on the way home, all six of us. And then all the children stood on the fireplace and loudly sang ‘Jesus in the Morning, Jesus in the Noontime, Jesus in the Evening’ or something. They heard another chapter of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and went to bed. And now I’m lying here waving away fruit flies, stupid stupid fruit flies which are Everywhere in Every house in this town like some vile plague. I’m going to post this and go to bed. Sunday is not made for the New York Times.