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A Sunday morning in fall

October 16, 2011


The air outside has turned brisk.  The trees change colors and leaves rustle through the street.  The sun may shine deceptively, masking the biting truth that awaits you when you step outside.  More often than not, however, the sky is grey, freezing rain ever threatening.  It’s this time, when everything outside is dying, that I’ve always felt most alive.

For as long as I can remember this has been my favorite time of year.  Throughout my 25 years these fall Sundays have followed roughly the same schedule.  Wake up, go to church, football on the TV all day, great food on the table and a whole slew of family and friends coming and going.   It started as a child.  We’d pick up Grandpa, always in his leather jacket and hat, and head to Holy Trinity for mass.  I’d lose myself in the intricately painted ceiling and Jay and I would get yelled at for giggling at something in the sermon.  During the Our Father, I’d hold Grandpa’s hand.  Even today I remember being amazed at how big and weathered his hands were.  Rough, yet somehow smooth. Callused.  They were such strong hands.  As the prayer ended he’d give us the slightest of squeezes, as if to say, “I love you, but quit talking in God’s house.”

Mass would end and we would head home.  Mom would make us sandwiches and soup or chicken strips.  Grandpa had a bagel.  And Irish coffee of course.  The consummate Steelers fan, he’d tell my dad how the Browns were terrible and Pops would return the favor.  I could’ve lived in these Sundays forever; Grandpa at the table, smelling of leather, pipe tobacco and peach schnapps, while the rest of the house was filled with vanilla and cinnamon candles.

Such is not life, though.

Grandpa passed, and I “grew up” and went to college.  A hectic life filled with classes, all nighters, early morning baseball; a 4 year
whirlwind that felt like 4 minutes. Oddly though, during the ever changing landscape that campus life provides, I noticed something remained the same.  Sundays in the fall kept their simple format: Mass, football, friends and food. Morning mass was replaced by late evening mass and, to be honest, the smells of our house were more barley, hops, and pepperoni than peaches and vanilla, but the idea was the same.
Friends came and went throughout the day, the Browns mostly lost and, with grandpa’s necklace on; I was reminded to pay attention during mass.

And still things change.

Nowadays I’m “all grows up”.  I work a job I love for 50+ hours a week, I live with my beautiful fiancée and our dopey puppy and, perhaps, I drink a little more wine than I used to.  The smells of vanilla and cinnamon have returned, but this time they’re in our duplex, not mom and dad’s house.  Full circle…hardly, but there are those things that have remained constant.  Most notably of these is Sundays in fall. Mass, football, food and family.

Now we head to 11 am mass and, even at 25, I find myself getting lost in the ornate ceilings of the church we attend.  In fact, the similarities between this church and Holy Trinity are startling.  The only thing missing are those strong hands.  Subtle differences include: instead of
giggling during the readings I listen intently, searching for their meaning and the fact that when I kneel down to pray, I now know who to talk to.  Sometimes we take a post-mass trip to the grocery store.  Guess what I look for;  sandwiches, soup.  The more things change…

The Browns still tend to lose and I find myself sounding more and more like Pops: angrily telling the players what to do through the
TV.  After the game maybe we’ll go to the gym or take Holden to the dog park but regardless I know I’ll be content.  I’ll step off our front porch, let that cold air sting my face and breathe in everything around me; looking down at my own strong hands.  Maybe not as worn, maybe not as
big, but I know where they come from. The Sundays that follow will be the same.  Ever changing and yet, unchanged.

 It’s bitter outside, but I feel alive.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 9:41 pm

    This post made me tear up. It is not only very well-written, but a beautiful tribute to family and tradition. Having a very bad week myself, it was a good reminder that there are bigger, more important things out there to focus on. Thank you for that.


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