When I was a child, Sunday afternoons were the longest hours of the week. The chasm between Sunday morning church and the start of 60 Minutes, which my dad was almost as religious about watching as about going to church, seemed like it was a veritable eternity. Sometimes I think it was even boring for my parents, so they’d pack up the car, instruct my brother and I to not fight or kick at the back of the seats in front of us, and we’d head out for a Sunday drive.
There was rarely a destination, except on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, when it was always time to “open” or “close” the cemeteries for the season, and if we were really, really lucky, those rides would somehow take us by the ice cream store on Route 13 outside of East Homer or to Goodale’s Dairy, where there was always a long line and delicious ice cream on wafer cones. That stop for ice cream, or even just the hair’s breadth of the possibility that it might happen, was what made those Sunday drives worthwhile. The cemetery stops were usually entertaining, too because they meant a grandmother or aunt would be along to tell stories about the dead relatives we were visiting, and there was always plenty of time to traipse around through the gravestones, looking for someone who died or was born on our birthdays or had a creative epitaph.
Fast forward all these decades later, and I find I still enjoy Sunday drives down scarcely traveled roads that follow the paths or rivers or rural railroads. It somehow feels like I’m being nosy as we pass by someone else’s typical Sunday afternoon and see people getting out of their cars still dressed in their Sunday best, trying to corral their children into the house before they get their clothes dirty beyond repair. And watching someone mow the lawn shirtless or running a chamois across their car in perfect circles somehow makes me feel like I’m a peeping tom in training, secretly stealing a moment of their lives to give me the seed for a story or to help me create my own version of their reality.
Sunday afternoon drives are for dreaming about the way others might live and realizing over and over again how good I really have it myself in my modest but cozy house on the hill. I may never have the fancy wrought-iron gate and stone entry with concrete lions suspended in mid-roar in stone that is somehow supposed to welcome guests to the property, but today at the end of our Sunday drive, I had wet feet from stopping creekside at a couple of places on the quiet road in order to take a few photos, and I had the happy knowledge that there was a box of store-brand rice crispies and a bag of marshmallows in the kitchen cabinet, so I could treat my beloved to a quick and tasty blue collar treat I knew he’d enjoy.
It may not have been Goodale’s ice cream on a wafer cone or a million dollar property with cross-cut mowing to make the lawn look like a sock pattern or something equally pretentious, but today’s Sunday drive was all about counting blessings and spending some quiet time with the one I love, giving my imagination and heart a booster shot to help them both appreciate what we have, who we are, and what matters most.