It starts around 5:00. Before that, the day has hope. At 5:00, hope evaporates into little clouds of resignation that then gather and form a storm cloud of dread. It’s as if someone has given me a pill timed to dampen my mood and behavior late afternoon every Sunday.
This has been true every Sunday night of my conscious memory and I’d like to know why.
It was easy to blame school for my Sunday night sink, not having my homework done, being afraid of being called on to recite “Breathes there the man with soul so dead/Who never to himself hath said/This is my own, my native land!” It goes on for thirteen more lines. In 5th grade, each of us, when called on, had to stand and recite the poem in front of the class. There was no way of knowing when. It was a roaming, aerial guillotine, floating above us all day every day until the very last student had recited. Those who had recited already watched the agony of those hiding in their own skins. I never had that pleasure. I hid until the last.
Sunday nights in college were lethal. The food commons was closed so we skipped dinner or bought a pizza across the street. In the small town where I went to college, it seemed like it got dark in the fall around three in the afternoon, everyone was tucked in somewhere, and I was with my roommates smoking Kools, waiting for the boyfriend back home to call, and complaining about Monday morning classes which we knew we would skip. There was an endlessness to those nights that fueled the dread of the next day. Tomorrow, we would have to leave our little room with the bunk beds and the candles made in milk cartons, turn off Joan Baez, put on our wool skirts and knee socks and go sit in class where the radiator would clank and the professor would read from notes pale from years of use.
When I had a houseful of kids, we tried to take the sting out of Sunday night by having a really great dinner, getting the tablecloth out and the good dishes, and eating in the dining room with the television tuned to PBS’ All Creature Great and Small. This, I believed, was the perfect way to approach the week. James Herriot was a man so happy in his work, up in the middle of the night to answer the phone, ready to load up his gear and go deliver a calf at any hour and do it all with a nice smile and gratitude for whatever pie the farmer’s wife had ginned up during the calving business. This is how I want to be, I thought. I want to be like James Herriot or maybe even his wife, Helen, who was smart and pretty and so obviously content with her life.
Now Sunday night means we face coming out of the cocoon of having our granddaughter with us. It means we can’t pass off going to the library and getting new books and puppets as useful endeavor or file lying on our backs watching kites float by as an educational experience. Sunday night means the end to reading Charlotte’s Web, of painting a seven-year old girl’s toes lavender, and buying red grapes for the snack she’s supposed to take to her new school. It means not knowing much about how she is doing until next weekend. It means practicing the Serenity Prayer. I don’t need to practice. I know it by heart.
I’m wondering if there are ways to make Sunday night mellow and sweet. But as I write this, I think maybe I have found the way. As I sit at my desk, a little girl draws dinosaurs and pins them to my bulletin board. She reads her Clifford book out loud and spells out words she doesn’t know. While she is doing these things, I write my blog. It’s been this way for several years. The two of us, on Sunday night, in this office, smelling the smells of dinner being cooked downstairs, having pajamas on and eating a peach.
It’s melancholy but it’s lovely, if that makes any sense.