The implication is obvious. One of them is obeying one of the Ten Commandments, and the other is not. But as the title of the book notes, this scene is vanishing. Sunday afternoons just “ain’t what they used to be.”
I recall a friendly little discussion with the MOTH on a Sunday many years ago. He considered laundry to be work. I had put a load of clothes in the automatic washing machine and pushed the magic button.
I was actually doing the laundry with much less energy than I had used preparing the meal we had just finished, and cleaning up afterwards, not to mention breakfast that morning and getting three children ready for church, and making beds, and supper yet to come.
In the decades since then, I’ve broken that commandment in more ways than one, or have rationalized and interpreted it in dozens of ways, not the least of which is shopping. With the new outlet mall so close by, it’s difficult to take a nap that lasts all afternoon.
To say that our lifestyles have changed is a gross understatement, one not at all new to today’s culture.
In the 1898 memoirs of Asbury Washington Saye from the Preservation Woodstock collection, he describes how his own grandparents lived: “Our grandfathers and grandmothers had to adjust themselves to their surroundings. They had to cut their wheat with reap hooks… It was common in the days of reap hooks for the women, as well as the men, to reap wheat all day then have a dance at night. At bedtime they had reading of the scriptures, then prayer before retiring to rest. That was when dancing was called an innocent amusement. Playing cards was then thought to be very sinful. Now dancing is sinful and playing cards all right. Circumstances change so as to mold sentiment for or against anything. Whiskey and brandy was made then by members, and even by the elders, of the Presbyterian Church, but they would not let a man who was traveling and needed to lodge with them till morning remain if he showed a deck of cards and purposed to play. Such a man was discountenanced.”
And so it goes. Then, and now, we strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. But as for Sundays, we certainly did not do major chores on those days when I was growing up.
Of course, the cow had to be milked, the hogs had to be fed and the eggs had to be gathered. There had to be food on the table, and Papa had to drive into town to pick up a Sunday newspaper before we left for church. But once the meal was over, the dishes were done and a tablecloth was spread over the leftovers on the kitchen oil-cloth-covered table, the afternoon belonged to us.
We always gave, and received, our Toni perms on Sunday. It took hours, which we had more of on that day. Other Sundays we walked for fun … to visit the neighbors, or even into town, or to a nearby cow pasture to watch some boys play a little baseball.
We often drove a few miles to visit Papa’s three sisters, all widowed, who lived together and who loved to have visitors, especially their only brother.
Occasionally, we spent a hot July afternoon at the swimming hole on the Conasauga River which flowed a short walk from our house in the country. (We didn’t fish on Sunday. It was against the law, Papa said.)
We worked the Sunday crossword puzzle and read the “funny paper.” If we took a nap, it was close to the most popular electrical device in the home, an oscillating fan.
And when the sun set, we would spread quilt pallets in the grass and lie on our backs to count the stars and look for the Big Dipper. We could play outdoors until bedtime.
No reason to hurry inside. There was no air conditioning and no television.
There was no telephone to connect us with friends, no iPhone, no Internet, no text messaging.
I guess it’s all in how you interpret “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.” You can’t get in much trouble taking a Sunday nap.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.