I grew up believing in stretching Sunday mornings because evenings just weren’t so fun to deal with. I’d sit in my church pew, all the way at the front of the congregation, or more likely on the altar, one foot tucked behind the other, and think about all the ways I could mess up. All the people who could etch my mistakes into their brains.
Later, they could cackle over coffee cake and hot tea about how I tripped over that too-long white robe, how I dazed out and forgot to hold the book, how I stood up when everyone else kneeled.
There was this anxiety that didn’t float away like it should have. And it felt like those moments stretched on forever.
The after, the part that came only once I hung up that white robe and slid into the backseat of my dad’s car, still smelling new even when I was in high school, held the moments where I could breathe again.
And then, they’d stand outside the car, chatting about something coming up, and I’d just want to roll onward to breakfast.
My sister and I would be buckled in already, twisting around to peer out the back window as if maybe, at any minute, the car itself might roll uphill across the gravel parking lot. Of course, it never did.
We’d fight with each other because we’d been quiet, so quiet and contemplative, for almost two hours by then, and our butts hurt from sitting on dark-stained wood and our stomachs growled and the car felt like an oven as the sun strengthened and the world buzzed and what were we missing? What on earth were we missing outside those four doors?
We found the answer in the Wawa parking lot, while my dad poured black coffee and my sister swung open the clear plastic pastry doors and tucked a donut or a muffin or anything with icing and sprinkles into it.
And then we’d rumble the quarter mile to our house, up one hill and down another, her fingertips messing the melting icing as she tried to get a pinch of sugar, too impatient to wait.
We’d run inside and use napkins as plates and my dad would come strolling in, The Philadelphia Inquirer in hand, sitting down at the head of the table, the two of us with only morsels and crumbs left on our napkins.
It always started that way, the waiting and worrying and bickering colliding with late-morning breakfast. But the worst was the moment after, when the donut was gone and the fingertips were sticky and the clock held too much time and not enough.
We’d slug upstairs, crashing into our rooms to do homework, busy through the afternoon, waiting for a Sunday night dinner that might make up for school the next morning.
For the first time in sixteen years, I didn’t feel that. No more Sundays stretched with schoolwork. I am not in the backseat of that car anymore. It sits in the second spot outside my apartment complex, waiting for me to trickle down three sets of stairs and into the driver’s side where I’ll coax it on and pray it gets me where I need to go. Where I want to go.
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