Driving along country roads on a fall October day, I feel blessed to be a New Englander.
“The Summer comes and the Summer goes; / Wild-flowers are fringing the dusty lanes, / The swallows go darting through the fragrant rains, / Then, all of a sudden – it snows,” wrote nineteenth-century New Hampshire poet and travel writer Thomas Bailey Aldrich.
The leaves are beginning to turn, and my mind wanders back to childhood days when Sunday afternoons, especially those in autumn, were spent along back roads of neighboring towns.
Back then we abided by the Blue Laws, and business ceased. Consequently, Sunday was not just another day of the workweek.
At our house we followed a ritual that began early in the morning when we dressed in our Sunday best and went to church.
After service, my father would drive to the neighborhood store and buy a dozen sugar-dusted jelly doughnuts.
At home my mother set out the old brown teapot. With sticky fingers we held onto our teacup in one hand and the pastry in the other.
Right after breakfast, my mother and I put on one of my grandmother’s hand-sewn aprons and prepared a full-course Sunday dinner, consisting of soup, salad, entrée, vegetables, biscuits and dessert.
Then, as soon as the dishes were washed, we went on a Sunday ride. Each week we headed in a different direction to destination unknown.
In the fall, we stopped at farm stands and harvest festivals, filling the trunk with pumpkins, chrysanthemums and jugs of apple cider.
The last stop was always at some out-of-the-way place for a double-scoop of ice cream.
Sunday evenings were quiet times, spent finishing up homework assignments and playing board games before we climbed into bed.
Today Sundays have evolved into just another workday, and many folks can no longer look forward to a day of rest. Family members are always missing when we gather around the table at home or at the summer house because they have to work.
We still begin the Lord’s Day in church and prepare an extra special Sunday dinner. But we rarely ride around the countryside.
Mostly, we relax, while reading or watching Red Sox or Patriots games.
But whenever I feel overworked and overwrought by the fast-paced lifestyle we live these days, I think back with nostalgia to quieter, simpler times when Sundays were best.