"Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work."
Robert Frost got it so right with that scrap from "Out, Out--" that these lines echoed in my head as I swam laps Sunday morning. I usually swim laps Sunday morning, but this time I was 3 hours later than usual, and had not been and had no plans to go to church. Most of my family and I were indulging in a Sunday of playing hooky.
This fall has been stunningly busy for us. My husband and I are both teachers, he in an elementary school and I at a high school, and both of us have a commute of about an hour round trip (less once the tourists and leaf peepers leave!). I have just gone back to full time teaching this year, and am also the head of my department. Andy's on the negotiations team. We have two children who attend the local high school, a blessed 5 minute walk from our house. Lyle is a senior, Nate is a freshman. Cross country season just ended, Y swimming is starting, Nate celebrated high school by joining every activity known to human kind: not just cross country, but also show choir, jazz band, pep band, the fall musical, and, on Wednesday afternoons, he now has a paper route. Oh, and we have an exchange student from Denmark this year. He's a senior too, a day older than Lyle, and he decided to play football this fall.
As a whole, our family has felt that we've kept our obligations thinned down: work, school, and church: no travel soccer, no weekends at the skiing condo, no Rotary club, no scouts. However, somehow Y swimming crept in there, in addition to my position as Library trustee for our town and a second on the Mission Board in our church. This fall we were in full action mode: AFS activities with Silas, various meets and games to watch or get kids to, parent meetings as teachers and as parents, committee meetings as planned, and then all the inescapable facts of family life: food shopping. Laundry. Family dinner as much as humanly (humanely?) possible. Occasional rounds of UNO or Blokus. Andy's 50th birthday party. A hike.
In this rich but laden calendar, the idea of playing hooky presents enormous grace. I've learned, after 24 years as a teacher, that a sick day isn't really a gift, as it comes with "sub plans" stamped all over it. That leaves the weekend as our backout option, and, this past weekend, Sunday was the chance. Amazingly, none of us had nursery duty or ushering; I didn't have any announcements to make or activities to run; none of the kids was involved in a project he didn't want to miss. As I turned the idea over in my mind, it began to assume the glow of a truly inspired chance, and when we all reassembled in the kitchen at 10 pm after a day of car appts at seven am (Brewer), Lyle's last State meet at Belfast (11 am), Silas's last football game in Lamoine (1 pm), Nate's work call (9 - 3), Lyle's work at the YMCA Haunted Hayride (4 - 9), I told the kids we were skipping church--and that was clearly a good idea.
Not that we did much with our extra time. I got up about the same time I would if I were on my usual schedule of swimming before church, but I made a coffee cake adn then lounged in my pjs with the cats and coffee for a while. I did some banking online, wrote a few letters (remember those?), called my brother, organized some catalog returns, and then swam hard, three hours later than usual. I food shopped at just about the usual time, and it snowed. Nate's goal was to stay in his pjs all day, and he almost made it! Lyle lounged and then went to his usual shift at the pool. Silas nursed a sore ankle from the game and slept in. The day, however, even with all its ordinariness, was set apart, special, because we had time to relax in it. We had given ourselves the gift of space to breathe, to lounge, to celebrate. For one morning in one week, we'd stepped off our chosen and beloved treadmill to revel in more time. What a gift to be "saved from work."