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Emily Mendell Headshot

Suddenly Sunday

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Early last Sunday evening, I sat in my home office writing, paying a few bills, and taking inventory of the week ahead. We had just finished dinner as a family; Dave had prepared lamb shanks and the house still smelled rich and savory from a full day of braising. Once the dishwasher was loaded, we all retreated to our own spaces and obligations. Noah was in his room, strumming on his guitar, the riffs playfully ambling down the hallway into earshot. Chase tackled the tail ends of his math homework at the kitchen table. Dave tapped away on his computer, preparing for the coming week of parent-teacher conferences.

I took a quick break from my tasks at hand to check my Twitter feed, where I found a number of people lamenting the existence of Sunday nights. They shared how much they loathed this particular time, sentiments we have all heard and felt many times before.

Sunday nights are the end to an "all too short" weekend. Sunday nights are heavy in anticipation of the drudgery, stress, chaos, and toil of the impending work and school week. Come Sunday night, time has run out on all the chores and tasks you promised you would get to at some point, but never did. Sunday nights are all about surrendering to the fact that you do not control your own destiny, because here comes Monday whether you like it or not.

Yup. Roger that.I get it.

But as I sat at my desk with a great deal of empathy for these Sunday-night-tortured Twitter people, I realized that I may have reached a place in my life where this time could easily be my favorite part of the week. It wasn't always this way, but Sunday nights have become a spiritual oasis where my family centers itself before flinging headlong into the tumultuous schedule that we honor Mondays through Fridays. Sunday nights are the gift of pause, a deep breath, a comforting ritual in which we abide, often without noticing.

On Sundays we are given permission to eat dinner early, sometimes as early as 4:00 p.m. We have time to set the table, carefully folding napkins and laying down flatware, rather than throwing some pasta into a bowl and announcing that "everyone is responsible for their own utensils and drinks." There are no activities on Sunday night, no rushing to get to lessons, or board meetings or school events. Yet, it is still officially a school night so the boys are relegated to our home and presumably a reasonable bedtime. All of this mandatory togetherness is understood, and, without a word, embraced by all of us. We putter around, cross paths in the hallways, and move through the evening with an easiness that is elusive on all other nights when our schedules propel us in umpteen different, urgent directions. On Sunday nights, we return to ourselves and to each other.

Years ago when my grandmother was still living, Sunday nights were reserved for extended family dinners. We would assemble at someone's home -- my sister's, brother's or mine, taking turns hosting, sometimes cooking or ordering take out, but always together for the sake of Mom-Mom. We don't get together as regularly now that she is gone, but the essence of "family" still prevails for Sunday nights. Our open door policy -- one which happily welcomes anyone into our home on any night of the week -- is not outright negated, but it isn't honored either. Not on Sunday.

Of course, these evenings of Zen were not possible when the boys were little. There was much more house work to be done, baths to be given, stories to be read, and earlier bedtimes which cut Sunday nights short, trying to fit it all in before the requisite melt down, which by the way wasn't always my children's. The drum beat was relentless back then, even on Sundays. But the boys have grown and our family rhythm has changed. And suddenly, Sunday nights have become this lovely little interlude.

I realize I may be in the eye of the Sunday night hating storm. Years from now, Sunday nights may be the time the boys return to college so I reserve my right to return to loathing this time. But for now, it's an opportunity to be present, in the here and now, and choose not to fret about the days ahead. Instead, we connect and disperse to get done what needs to get done -- perhaps alone -- but under the same roof with the same unspoken understanding that we are exactly where we belong.Together.

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