Averyell A. Kessler
I was a rising fifth grader at Power School when I realized the Baptists were having more fun at bible school than I was. My friend Martha, a regular at First Baptist Sunday School, came home with a multi-colored paint-by -numbers parrot, an Indian headdress with real feathers, and a blue and white braided lanyard with a whistle on the end. I’d been forced to memorize the entire thee and thou version of the ten commandments, make a Moses mask from a paper plate, a popsicle stick, and cotton balls. We feasted on tin can orange juice and excessively crunchy ginger snaps. As a result, I learned a new word from the 7th although no one would explain its mystery. I also picked up a valuable tidbit of information from the 4rd. It was simple; God himself had prohibited homework on the Sabbath. A few weeks after school started, I tried a new approach.
“I’m not supposed to do homework on Sunday,” I announced with certainty. “The preacher said so this morning. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy……I’m sure God doesn’t think homework is holy.”
“You have a spelling test tomorrow,” Mama answered. Her eyed narrowed. “Fifty words? Yes?”
“Six days shalt thou labor……………” I continued, tossing in the word “thou” to advance my argument. “Homework is labor.”
“Are you sure about this?” Mama asked
“In it thou shall do no work,” I rattled on. Too bad I’d already lost my Moses mask. I would have been far more forceful.
“Ok,” my mother added. “I guess you’ll have to miss I love Lucy tonight. TV Guide says Senor Wences will be on Ed Sullivan. You’ll miss him too.”
“That’s not work! It’s just watching TV.” I was indignant.
“Studying is just paying attention,” Mama countered.
I lost, of course. But it was worth a try, and I enjoyed Senor Wences, s’aright? S’aright.”
Sunday has always been my favorite day. It still is. Slow, quiet Sunday when no one looks at the clock, and time passes with the grace of a flittering butterfly. In my spring green days, there was no urgency when the Sunday sun rose, sizzling bacon was automatic, biscuits too, and nothing except church and a pot roast was on the agenda. My family lived in Belhaven when most stores were closed, children’s sports did not dominate everybody’s free time, and a 24/7 news cycle didn’t keep us all is a dither. Daddy’s only Sunday worry was if Dr. Miller would stop preaching in time for us to beat the Methodists to the Colonial House Cafeteria. A Sunday afternoon nap was a continuing tradition, as was leafing through the comics section to see what Li’l Abner was up to.
An after-lunch drive was a customary activity for many Jackson families, Mama and Daddy in the front seat, kids in the back. There might be a stop for ice cream or a stroll through the zoo to see Margaret the elephant or a tribe of chattering monkeys. Sometimes, the trip was a simple journey down the Natchez Trace to count the miles before we turned around. Sometimes, there was a picnic, as well as a paddle ball tournament or a yoyo contest. It was also the day my grandfather opened the gates of Avery Gardens and welcomed cars to drive through his property and see hundreds of blooming azaleas.
Sunday was my day to laze in a hammock and stare at the sky, picking out animal shapes as clouds drifted past and making up stories starring me as a fairy princess or a circus acrobat riding bareback on prancing white horse. I had many hours of idle dawdling before the heavy hammer of Monday hit hard. The organized chaos of the Power School playground was totally absent, an eager dentist wasn’t waiting to tighten my braces, and my piano teacher wouldn’t correct my fingering or watch to see if I could handle more than two sharps. Sunday was my day to think, to dream, to imagine, and to do nothing even though life beckoned me to its whirling dance.
Most of all, Sunday taught me the value of silence. It walks hand in hand with creation as well as creativity. Without silence I wouldn’t have seen a tiny green hummingbird dipping its beak into my lavender blooms or heard my grandchild’s first giggle. Without silence, I wouldn’t remember losing my first tooth, much less be able to tell the story. It’s part of a writer’s life because that’s when words blossom, and ideas tap me on the shoulder to whisper “Hey, listen up.” Perhaps silence isn’t only the absence of sound, but the presence of clarity and recollection. Perhaps every silent night is a holy night. I wish every day was Sunday.