It was music to my ears when the bell would ring each Friday afternoon at William Winchester Elementary. All of my classmates would be telling each other “have a good weekend”, or “see you next week”. The weekend meant anything was possible; time to yourself, time with friends and most importantly, family time. It almost felt like a weekly holiday. I would savor every second of the weekend, all the way up until Monday morning. Monday morning meant waking up with eye boogies, quickly getting dressed, eating some cereal and then running to the car to be dropped off at the bus stop. I loathed two things about Monday mornings; the weekend was over and the radio stations would always play a line-up of 80’s songs that reflected the misery of Mondays or songs about rain.
As a child, when the weekend rolled around, two things were certain; sleeping in for my parents and Saturday morning cartoons for my sister and I. We would wake up early on Saturday mornings and walk out to the living room carrying our pillows and blankets. With me wearing my matchbox pj’s and my sister in her wonder women, we’d camp out on the floor until noon, watching cartoons on the giant wood framed family television. The scent of coffee would slowly make it’s way from the kitchen, down the steps and into the downstairs living room. Eventually the sound of sizzling bacon and eggs would make it official that everyone was awake.
Like a drill sergeant, loud and direct, my father would announce, “breakfast!!”. The man was easily offended if you didn’t make it to the kitchen table while steam was still pouring from the plates. We’d race upstairs to wolf down breakfast, then run to our rooms to get dressed and head back to our pillows in the living room to watch the last of the Saturday morning cartoons. When the morning news took over all of the television stations, that was our sign to head outside. Most of the time we’d roam around our neighborhood on our bikes looking for friends to hang out with or mischief to get into.
Later in the afternoon, we’d sometimes fly kites with our parents. Other times we’d go for a family walk around the neighborhood, stopping here and there to talk to close friends and other families . On busy weekends, we’d sometimes go fishing, visit my grandparents for a day of swimming or sometimes just hop in the car and drive somewhere, anywhere. Weekends were a pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of the hectic work/school week. A weekend was the perfect prescription to help keep a family strong. These were the early 1980’s. Unfortunately my family needed a stronger prescription, because those years were short lived, with my parents splitting up when I was in fourth grade.
Oh, how the times have changed. These days, a weekend off only happens on vacation time. Cartoons run 24 hours a day , 7 days a week on dozens of channels. As far as a quiet neighborhood for my kids to use their imaginations and adventure off into…..the strangers that regularly wander our sidewalks and alleys and the cars racing up and down the street are a bit of a turn off. Family time seemed so much simpler 30 years ago.
These days time together isn’t handed out on a silver platter like it once was. Family time has to be carefully planned, and even when it is, it doesn’t always work out. My family generally has Sundays off together, however, more often than not, we have an itinerary that revolves around the schedule of others. Whether it’s cookouts, birthdays, holidays, play dates, chores or friend/family get-togethers, whatever the circumstances, many of the 52 Sundays throughout the year are spent running around. With family and friends so widely spread, it sometimes feels like a game of football. My family makes up the offensive line and we are all trying to protect our Sunday off.
Yesterday was a simpler time, but also quite possibly a weaker time. The quote, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is true to it’s words. Today, despite the struggle, we are a strong family. What makes us a strong family is our drive. Our family is like a team, a team competing for a giant golden trophy. That giant golden trophy is really a day off together in disguise. Each time we win that “trophy“, it just makes us hungry for more. More importantly, while in the midst of each days challenging itinerary, we always try to manage and incorporate a good variety of winding down, talking about our days, being active but also being silly and making time for each other.
The demise of my childhood family was for reasons beyond my control. My only remorse when looking back is remembering how spoiled we once were, always having long weekends together that were brimming with family time. We were blessed with a gift, but yet still unable to endure the trials and tribulations of surviving as a family. Family time may not be as common or easy to come by as it once was, but, it is clearly something I will never take for granted.