I just finished my 2nd book on Sabbath keeping. I’ve read 2.5 books on rest and Sabbath over the last month, and can I say, something is happening to my soul–a good something. Rest doesn’t come easy to me, and my list of reasons (or excuses as the truth may be) is long and probably not unlike to your own list of hangups about resting and observing a Sabbath.
One of the most beautiful things about rest I’m discovering is memory. The busier I allow myself to become, the less space there is for reflection and memory. Because my moments are suddenly more open, my mind has time to wander, to dream and to remember.
It turns out I actively observed the Sabbath before I ever knew I was doing so. As a “military brat” we rarely enjoyed living near to extended family. Moving every couple of years taught us to grow shallow roots and learn quick routines. So often for us, our family consisted of other military families we happened to be stationed with. But for two blessed years in south Miami, we lived within driving distance of my Mother’s childhood home–where my maternal Grandparents remained, in that same rambler with the lacquered brick floors.
Nearly every Sunday we’d make the short drive from the Catholic church we attended, to my Grandparent’s home, where we’d share a meal. On those Sunday’s, time practically stalled out for endless hours.
Greeting us in his kitchen, my Grandfather would offer me a “coka” which was his word for anything dark and carbonated, sometimes, it was an actual Coke, but often, it was a Dr. Pepper. He told me once about how He knew the man who had invented the stuff at Morrison’s corner drug store, many moons ago, in sweltering Waco, Texas. I loved his stories about his growing up there. These stories were often the centerpiece of Sunday dinner.
The menu mattered but the company mattered more. Usually, it was a bucket of fried chicken from KFC or a bag full of messy, BBQ from Shorty’s–a restaurant that had served my own mother food as a child.. Shorty’s was always a favorite–there was something special about eating food from my own mother’s old stomping ground. There’s history there. Walking into Shorty’s on a Sunday afternoon to pick up our colossal order, felt like stepping into a day from my Mother’s youth. I don’t know why it mattered to me, but it did. (I felt the same pangs of nostalgia when they’d take us to Allen’s drug store, one of those old soda fountain, lunch-counter drug stores, where my mother had also visited during her youth.)
Before and after our big supper, we spent time out on the screened in porch, or out back on the tire swing. We wandered through the yard picking lemons and limes, and occasionally, we’d get the pole out to yank down a football-sized avocado off of his tree. Sunday’s moved slow in that house. Occasionally, the grown-ups would nod off while my sister and I watched Anne of Green Gables for the umpteenth time on a half worn out VHS.
There existed a rhythm to these lazy Sunday afternoons that I’d practically forgotten. I’ve long lost the slow beat of what it is to sit long and quiet, or the pleasure of letting the warmth of a sunny afternoon make me drowsy. It was too hot for noise, and I don’t remember there being much, other than the chatter of conversation and the laughter around the table.
It’s possible that I’ve swiped over all of this with a generous brush of pink nostalgia. Maybe we did squabble. Maybe sometimes we fought over that last greasy KFC biscuit–actually, I’m sure we did. I don’t remember those details. I know there were rainy Sundays (there had to be). I know there were some Sunday’s when my Grandmother emerged, frail and disoriented, from the back bedroom where she mostly cocooned herself.
But those are shadow memories, hazy and black and white, not vibrant and moving like the brighter moments of joy, and family and peace around the table.
I remember slowing down. I remember family. I remember spinning free on the tire swing, with sweat running down the backs of my knees and the hot breath of the afternoon frizzing my hair. I recall the sound of crickets and the mystical draping presence of Spanish moss.
We pet their snippy Siamese cat when she’d let us. We leafed through my grandfather’s old musty books. We made up stories about the old house and listened when they told us the real ones, the ones about traveling with Pan Am and black sand beaches in Hawaii.
I didn’t have a word for these Sunday’s then. For two years, Sabbath was a part of my routine before I knew it had a proper name.
In these quiet days lately, I allow myself to revisit these memories. I can almost feel the cool brick under my bare feet. I can still see the kitchen and the dining table with its turquoise chairs.
It was there I learned what rest feels like. it was there, in those non-negotiable visits to the gravel roofed ranch house, that I learned what family looks like, and what it is to be near to the people who make up our histories.
Sabbath in the south is a gift I am only now beginning to unwrap.