Sunday Afternoons

Today is an overcast, warm and lazy one.  It’s not that I can’t decide what to do, it’s more like there are too many things to choose from and hey, it’s Sunday.  The vast majority of Christians don’t observe the Sabbath in a strict sense and sometimes that’s not a good idea.  Some scrap of time needs to be locked in as rest but allow you to do what you want to do, not what you think you have to do.  This is not a desire for an excuse to be lazy.  The Lord really did set aside a day of rest.  Therefore…. if I don’t get at washing a car, starting a blanket, sorting papers, or cooking, I shouldn’t be pressured into it.  In fact, I haven’t voluntarily cooked unless it was a very special occasion on a Sunday since the kids were short.  It’s graze day.

But, Mom is another story.  Maybe it’s that history that makes me dig in my heels and say “IT”S SUNDAY, so back off!!”  In her day, food was love and love was food.  She walked the talk at a size 22.  Sunday was the day the whole family was not doing something else or going somewhere else.  That was her opportunity to put on a multi-course Sunday Dinner.  But, Ma, every Sunday ??  Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, two vegetables, dessert, and what am I missing besides brain cells?  There had to be more.  That table seems to bow in the center.  Of course in the summer, it was mounded with fresh green beans, tomatoes, and corn on the cob plus whatever else was ripe.  And the chicken. And the mashed potatoes.  (I’m getting hungry).

With three girls to enslave help, it took only 3-5 hours to get this on the table.  We might have to gather the crop and prepare it.  The pies, if pies were selected, were from scratch.  Same day. That meant flour everywhere, cornsilk in the sink, beans needing snapping.  Here’s the best one:  Sometimes we killed the chicken.  Yup.  But not every Sunday.  Most of the time, they planned ahead and killed the chicken on Saturday.

We didn’t have a pen of our own and chickens in it holding up their little chicken wings and clucking “Pick me! Pick me!”  No, we had to drive a mile and a half or so on the blacktop north of town to a little farm house where two elderly sisters lived.   They dressed like the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace, 1944 (which I own) and sold both chickens and eggs.  Dad would choose and chase, tie the feet, pay the ladies, and transport the squawking, flapping chickens, and whatever other scared silly little family members who begged to ride along (plastered to the back of the seat) back to the property and procede to … uh … process them.  Process. That’s a nice word.  He would chop their little heads off, hang them upside down from the clothesline, soak them in a tub of hot water and have the nerve to ask for help de-feathering them.  Talk about stink-o-rama!  Phew!  Now it was Mom’s turn to turn the critter into frying parts.  (I can’t resist this) Parts is parts.

There are certain stories that need to be passed down through all generations and here is one of them.  When my sister, Margaret, was about two and a half years old, this understandably freaked her out.  You have to do what you have to do to feed your family on whatever income you have and the Murphys had to kill chickens rather than pay the cellophaned store prices.  That was all there was to it.  Poor Mag.  I picture her when I hear the saying “running like a chicken with its head cut off” which unfortunately happened occasionally when Dad lost his grip of the chicken at the chopping block.

Mom tried and finally coaxed the Magger to sit at the opposite side of the table while she cleaned the bird.  Do I have to tell the inexperienced reader that certain … material … had to be removed?  I’m sure Margaret knew the thing was going to rise from the table and run at her.  She sloooowly approached the table, carefully climbed the chair and watched unblinkingly.  Mom was gently convincing her that it was harmless.   Until ………… she accidentally (it really was an accident… really) squeezed the squawk box.

She said as she retold the story over and over and over, she never saw a kid move so fast in all her life.  If you knew Mom, you know she was shaking, red in the face, arms crossed over her generous bosom, unable to breathe or speak, with tears rolling down her face.

She would put herself through these huge hoops of work consistently.  We had a full table every Sunday.  That’s a wonderful image.  But, I was there to witness the sweat, the mess, the incredible overeating when it was all done.  And I really am grateful for the love behind it.  But wisdom dictates that I can’t eat that way every single Sunday.  In Litchfield, we did other special family things like go out after church or go to the lake.  The general rule of Sundays under my control was and is  “graze.”  Like I said, on occasion, a big dinner at the house was done and done right.  Not every Sunday.  And with my cholesterol up to Mars and a doctor’s command to take off 30 pounds yesterday, I have to graze light.

I don’t necessarily miss the big dinner.  I do miss the people that sat around that table week after week, Mom, Dad, Sharon, Jerry, David, Laurie, Magger.  I miss the era of innocence, the card game or board game that followed, the slow pace.  We wouldn’t put the food away all day.  It didn’t spoil.  We’d sit there and talk, nibble, get up and move around, come back and sit and talk and nibble.  After supper hour when it was time to relax in front of the TV, the table was cleared and the dishes were washed.  Under duress as usual.

Good times.  Good times.

There’s a KFC somewhere out there, and a Sara Lee something at a Kroger’s.   I’ll eat the rabbit food for now. You, the young and metabolic, can have the KFC and Sara Lee.  We can sit around the table for a Sunday afternoon and talk.

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