Tuesday, January 5, 2010
My floor is covered with books and photographs and clothes, in my meek attempt to pack some of my life into two suitcases to take with me to South Africa. The hardest part is deciding what to bring besides clothes. Every year, moving back to Villanova, I'd bring a crate of books with me-- not to read, you understand, but sort of as a comfort item. On a trip thousands of miles away, it seems that a crate of books is not the most practical of ideas. I need to bring photos, but which ones? Will they get damaged if they're not in frames? Exactly how much makeup am I going to need for an entire year?
It's been important to sit back and take a moment or two to remember my purpose in going to volunteer. I'm not going on vacation; I'm going to work and be a part of some small means of assistance to people who have never had to pick which makeup to pack, or which five pairs of shoes to bring.
I'll probably only wear flip-flops anyway.
And so, amid this packing and preparing and phonecalls to the bank, I'm signing off from Sinéad Freshly-Squeezed for a while, mostly because I've created a new blog to chart my experiences in South Africa. It's called dispatches from KZN (title inspired by McSweeney's) (and f.y.i. KZN means KwaZulu Natal). Though I plan on checking in here once in a while, I was in need of a specific place to keep my family and friends up-to-date on my adventures. Both blogs link to each other in the side panels, so if you need some orienting, there it is.
Peace out, blog world. See you in South Africa!
Monday, January 4, 2010
A while back, my dear friend (and fellow redhead) Colleen wrote an ode-- specifically, an ode lauding the merits of front porches in her hometown. She suggested that some other bloggers out there might be similarly inspired to write such a post, and now, much later than I care to admit, I've decided to write my own ode: an ode to Sundays.
I hated Sundays growing up. Even throughout four years of college, Sundays were a reminder of the week that followed. They meant homework that I'd put off all weekend, an hour of being bored at church, shifts at Barnes & Noble Café during high school, and in college, laundry and other chores that would bite me in the butt come Sunday night. A good friend once referred to the dreaded day as being like, "the last meal before an execution," and, for a long time, I took that comparison to heart. Even when Mondays were occasional holidays, Sundays were always my least favorite day of the week.
But all that changed after my move back home following graduation.
Now, on Sundays, I sleep late-- but if the sun looks particularly nice, I might go for a brisk run around the neighborhoods, happily aware that the benefits of my exercise will be counteracted by Dad's crepes or Mum's lemon muffins or croissants from our local grocery store. If the warmth of my bed wins over motivation for exercise, I'm usually woken by the sound of the coffee grinder, and thoughts of steaming hot cups of dark coffee diluted with skim milk.
After a late breakfast, I spend the day finishing a couple of chapters in that book next to my bed, or finishing a blog post I'd meant to get around to all week. My little sister Megan does homework (though the Top 40 Hits blaring out of her stereo would suggest otherwise) and a good portion of time is spent convincing Mum that she's not texting, she swears.
On some Sundays, my sisters and I are reunited for a short while, because Niamh makes the trek home from college with laundry in hand, craving a good meal and the familiar comfort of her own bed.
In the warmer months, Mum and Dad would have been out in the garden long before my sisters and I get out of bed. After breakfast, they'd go back to it, and whenever I see them out there, I make a silent promise to one day spend some time pondering horticulture as a hobby too. Now that it's chilly, Dad might venture out to break up the old trees that fell during summer thunderstorms, and chop them into firewood. Mum catches up on emails, occasionally letting out an excited yell when a potential houseguest to our French cottage drops her a line. She catches up on her reading for one of her two book groups, and then it's into the kitchen, where she (and Dad, more and more these days), spends some time figuring out what we can eat for our early Sunday meal out of what's in the fridge.
I peek my head in from time to time, sometimes offer to make a salad dressing or dessert, but usually happy to be assigned the already carefully planned tasks that Mum's worked out. Her timing is impeccable; with Megan due at youth band rehearsal at 5, dinner's always on the table around 4. Sometimes Dad and Meg make homemade pasta, cranking out perfectly shaped strips of yellowish dough, while Mum roasts vegetables or simmers a sauce that goes perfectly with the fish Dad caught on his most recent fishing trip. I'm never shy to get the cheese out before we sit down to dinner, so that it's ready to eat after the plates have been cleared away and before Megan jets off to practice.
Then, before we eat, we hold hands and for a brief moment, every week, we say grace together. We each take a turn wishing blessings on the family member seated next to us, and for that one moment, all is quiet around us. It's the perfect meditation that lasts all week long. Though we trundle off to Mass after dinner, the short grace that we say before our Sunday meal is one of the most sacred moments of my week.
At Mass, we sing along with Megan and the youth band. Mum says her prayers the Irish way, and I secretly love to hear her do so-- it's a reminder of the family across the ocean who have also attended Mass that same day. Dad never applauds the occasional speaker after Communion, and Niamh and I sometimes revert back to childhood and attempt to outsqueeze each other's hands during the Our Father. For a sacrament so full of tradition and meditation, it's the routine of being there with my family that I appreciate most.
After coming home, we change back into the yoga pants and sweatshirts we'd worn before church and boil the kettle to fill the teapot. Teabags are a prized possession in our house; they're the only thing we insist on smuggling back to the US after a trip back to Ireland. The tea is made with precision, and after dessert, Meg goes back to her books and Niamh settles in for an early night before her drive back to school on Monday morning. Dad goes upstairs to check his email, and then reads his book before going to sleep, and downstairs, in the living room, Mum and I take up residence on the couch with the cats to watch our one televised indulgence of the week. After a short debriefing of the episode and complaints about the inevitably unimportant local news at 11, we, too, make our way to bed.
In reflecting on the Sundays I've come to cherish since moving home, I've decided that my enjoyment of them has been affected by the lack of schoolwork I've reveled in since graduation. But, more importantly, I love Sundays because they have come to be the nucleus of my family's week. On Sundays, we take the time to be with each other. We're busy people, especially now that my sisters and I are grown, and we have lots of commitments that get in the way of quality time spent with each other. But on Sundays, when we sit around the table, or together at church, or even watching TV, there's a different feeling of togetherness than on other days.
And that's why, on this last Sunday with my family for a whole year, I'm quite sad to reflect on how much I enjoy them. It's hard thinking about my new life without my family in it, and I think that Sundays will be especially tough. But there are things that I can do-- like going to Mass or cooking a meal at home-- that will remind me of the peace I've enjoyed on Sundays with my family.