The Great Sunday Vacuum

By Michael J. Legeros

          "...straight from God's brain to your mouth."
                                        - Bart Simpson

Abuse aside, what is the cruelest thing that parents do to their
kids?  Smoking cigarettes in the car with the windows closed?
Forced consumption of greens??  Summer camp???  For Yours Truly,
the horror of horrors was... having to go to church.  From my wee
years till my teens, I was dragged every Sunday morning to the Big
C.  First to St. Mark's Cathedral in Minneapolis and then to St.
Andrew's in Morehead City, N.C.  (We moved there when I was four-
teen.)  The later years were the most tolerable, especially after
I mastered the art of negotiation with Mom.  (She required that I
attend service or Sunday school, but not both.  And as I was old
enough to roam on my own, the choice to skip service was a duh! no-

At St. Mark's, I'd wander about the building, at times hanging out
in the daycare, at other times rifling through the kitchen.  Or I'd
cross the street to kill time in Loring Park.  (There was a fire-
house within long-walking distance, too!)  In Morehead, however,
the pickings proved far slimmer.  While Mom, my stepdad, and my
siblings sat in their own pews, I was down the street playing Pac-
Man.  Or hanging out in the church library, skimming their 600-
pound dictionary.  (You know you're bored when you're reading Web-
ster's for pleasure...)  By the end of my teens, the only kneeling
I'd do was on Christmas Eve.  And even *that* wasn't exactly a joy
to the world, despite being the one time in the year when you knew
all the songs (hymns).

In my younger youth, daydreaming was the preferred escape from
Church Service Hell.  Prayers, hymns, and solemn sermons meant
nothing to a hyperactive kid who was so restless that he once got
up in the middle of a sermon, left his front-and-center pew, and
walked out right in front of the Dean, the choir, and the congre-
gation.  (If I recall correctly, the later berating included some-
thing about a handicapped girl in attendance and how *she* was able
to sit through it.)

At least there was never any danger of falling asleep.  Ours was an
Episcopalian church, which meant several cycles of standing, sit-
ting, and knelling over that Hour That Felt Like Three.  Sometimes
they held communion, which provided the blessed relief of actually
getting to *do* something during the service.  (That and the guilty
pleasure of sipping real wine!)  Other times they passed the col-
lection plate, inspiring the dare-never-act-upon-it temptation to
nab a bill for myself.

And believe it or not, I even *participated* in the service for a
stretch, as a robe-clad, candle-carrying, trying-his-hardest-not-
to-laugh altar boy.  It sucked, sure, but membership had its priv-
ileges.  Altered boys sat separate from the congregation in a cham-
ber behind the choir.  And as no parents were present, we were free
to make faces, pass notes, or fold programs into paper airplanes.
(The latter to be launched from the back balcony, if the time and
lack of adults was right.)

When I finally fled the nest in 1983, to attend college at North
Carolina State, church was and would remain the last of all pos-
sible things to cross my mind.  Sunday mornings (and early after-
noons) turned into vast expanses of free time that no longer need
involve boring Bible stories, the rote recitation of prayers, or
anything even remotely requiring a coat and a tie.  (Needless to
say, I haven't viewed too many brides or burials in the intervening
years, either.)

Alas, the joy of my newfound freedom was quickly quelled with the
realization that most of the *rest* of the world still went to
church on Sundays.  (Or at least quite a few folks in Raleigh...)
Friends were harder to get up with, stores opened later, and, un-
less you were a sports fan, TV was a total loss.  The Great Sunday
Vacuum, if you will, where entertainment and commerce commenced on-
ly after 1.  Or maybe not even all.  (For many years Belk stores
stayed closed on Church Day.)  Nor could liquor be purchased any
earlier in the day.  (Not that this non-drinker minded...)  In
fact, about the only dependable pastime was people-watching, when
the Houseguests of the Holy flocked en masse to area cafeterias and
buffet-style steak houses.  (And all of 'em smiling wide, either
thrilled with God or thrilled to be free of Him for another week.)

Now in my mid-thirties and only mildly resentful of my parent's
past actions, I've learned to cope with the GSV.  Sleeping late is
good.  As are leisurely brunches and the always dependable morning
sex.  Laundry, cleaning, and yard work are also dandy do-em's.  And
now that Target, Wal-Mart, and Hundred-Dollar Depot have infected
the lands, one can even go shopping!  Or book browsing!!  Or bowl-
ing!!!  (Not only are the alleys open, but most of them have pin-
ball, pool, and video games!)  Even the multiplexes are starting to
start their matinees at 11 or 12.

For myself, however, the activity best suited to Sunday-in-the-a.m.
is writing.  No contest.  The phone rarely rings, the doorbell nev-
er chimes, and if you want to run errands, there just ain't that
many places open.  Of course, even sitting in front of the ol'
computer-- writing or otherwise-- eventually results in raw rest-
lessness.  At least I'm no longer confined to a six-or-so-block
geographic area.  Or limited by the distance that my footsies won't
fail.  Thank God for adulthood...

Copyright 1999 Michael J. Legeros


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