Published in the Rains County Leader on July 23, 2019:
On Sundays, David and I usually go home after church and have a light lunch, usually leftovers, but this week Don and Carol asked David if we wanted to go out to eat with them. It sounded like fun to me, so when we pulled out of the parking lot, he turned right instead of left. Everyone must have had the same idea, because the parking lot at Sidekicks was so full we had to park at the flower shop. Don and Carol were already seated at a table for four, but Paul had joined them. When Carol saw us, she said, “Oh, David said he wasn’t sure.” Then, she nodded at the empty table for six behind her, and everybody shifted. It was a little like the tea party scene from Alice in Wonderland – “clean cup, clean cup, move down, move down.”
When everyone was seated again and orders had been placed, conversation around the table became lively. The talk was split between the men and the women, but the subjects were mostly the same – the heat, the happenings of the past week, who was absent from church today and why, and the sermon. It was all good – no telling tales out of school or serving up roast pastor – just loving conversation among friends.
The men ran out of things to talk about before the women, probably because they kept looking toward the kitchen to see if anyone carrying plates was heading our way. When the food arrived, David prayed and we all set about the serious business of eating. I looked at my plate and smiled to myself, wondering how many times I had sat down to a meal like that on a Sunday afternoon – fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, pinto beans, carrots and a roll. The chicken I grew up with would have had a bone instead of being a filet that spread across half the plate, and the carrots would probably have been corn, but the feeling was the same – a wonderful meal with friends and family after a joyful morning of worship followed by a quiet afternoon that might include a nap.
The little town where I grew up had one restaurant if you didn’t count the Dairy Mart, and both of them were closed on Sunday. Almost everyone I knew went to church, and almost every mom got up early in order to fry a chicken or put a roast in the oven for Sunday dinner. (The evening meal was called supper.) Mom usually cooked her roast in a Dutch oven on top of the stove with onions and potatoes, but the results were the same. When we walked into the house around noon, the delicious smell of a dinner that was almost done greeted us at the door.
Things began to change a bit when Wyatt’s Cafeteria came to town. Granny Hagan, Mom’s mother, introduced us to the Wyatt’s Cafeteria down the street from her church. Sunday was her day off, but she liked her home church, so we would pick her up and bring her home to spend the afternoon with us. Once or twice, probably just after payday, she treated us to dinner. It was the fanciest restaurant I had ever seen, and when one came to our town, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. We still ate at home most Sundays, but once in a while we splurged and dined out. Home cooked Sunday dinners were definitely on the way to extinction.
That was half a century ago, and almost everything has changed. A much smaller percentage of the population goes to church, and no one gets up early on Sunday morning to cook unless there’s a potluck after services. If there’s no potluck, most of those who attend church – and some who don’t – eat out at one of the multitude of restaurants that are open seven days a week.
Still, among many families and groups of friends some things will never change. Grace is still said before meals, conversation is loving and entertaining, food is plentiful, and Sunday afternoons are restful and may include a nap.
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