When I was just a wee lad seven decades ago, Sundays were different than any other day of the week. For many Americans, Sundays were a day for Church or Temple; we were not a religious family, however, and Sunday services played no major part in my upbringing. What made Sundays different was the quiet.
Almost all stores were closed on Sunday and whatever shopping needed to be done was taken care of during the rest of the week. Movie theatres were open, and some restaurants or diners; but that was just about it. Few people had to work, so car traffic was way down, as was delivery activity by trucks. No mail, no milk man, no garbage pick-up; like I’ve said, Sundays were quiet.
For middle-class kids like me, Sundays were like a vacation, a day to ride my bike, meet up with friends, maybe take in a movie at a theater with just one screen. If the weather was lousy and cold, my father would light a fire and we’d all hang around the living room; he’d read the Sunday New York Times for hours and hours and my mother would spend the afternoon completing the crossword puzzle. The Times had no Sunday funnies, but my comic book collection filled the bill. I’d sit close to the fire and despite my father’s admonitions, shove the logs around with a long metal poker to dislodge chunks of red-hot coals from their undersides.
Sundays were also a day for my mother to cook. She loved to spend time in the kitchen making elaborate meals on her enormous stove, a Wolf restaurant range that was so big and heavy that additional post supports had to be added underneath the floor. We’d all gather to eat at around the dining room table and talk about this and that. By the time dinner was finished it was dark, the fire was dying and my father would begin yawning.
Sundays have changed since then. Nowadays, it’s just another shopping day and an opportunity to be busy doing. And it’s noisy; street traffic is often busier than weekdays, particularly here in an area popular with tourists. There’s still movie theatres, but the single-screen theatre days are almost entirely gone.
We are no longer a slow and quiet society; to the contrary, our modern lives are speedy and filled with noise. Entertainment, in the form of music, television and constant “doing” is nearly an addiction; cramming all sorts of “experiences” into our lives, all well-documented with selfies, has us jumping in cars and planes as eager tourists, hoping to soak up whatever moments a hurried life has to offer. And we’ve not only become addicted to all this action, but also the booming economic activity that accompanies it through cell phones, Netflix, apps and non-stop in-your-face advertising. But suddenly, things have changed.
During this Corona Virus pandemic, we’ve all been asked to stay at home. Almost every store is closed, restaurants are only serving take-out orders, street traffic has disappeared, and the world is, well, quiet. The skies are clear, you can hear the birds and wind moving through the trees. I find myself thinking, this is like a week of Sundays. But this pandemic is no joke. I’m losing track of the days of the week. If the situation gets worse, it could turn out to be a month of Sundays, or even longer.