On Sunday mornings I rise with the wail of my babe instead of the vibration of my husband’s cell phone alarm. I quickly clothe my toddler and send him creeping down the stairs with his dad. I hear him chime “up” with every step he descends. Then I stare at my closet, pulling out a skirt, trying it on, yanking it off and tossing it on the bed in disgust. This exasperating ritual is repeated until I finally settle on something suitable.
Meanwhile, my husband has began mixing the pancake batter. I do most of the cooking in our house, he has a few specialties: popcorn, burritos, and Sunday morning breakfasts. We always serve pancakes or waffles on Sundays. My parents began this tradition to lure to get sleepy children out of their beds and into the church pews. “Hurry up and get dressed,” they would cry. We’d begin to stir. Then they’d add, “We made pancakes.” We’d rapidly don our Sunday best in anticipation of syrup-drenched fluffy stacks of flapjacks. The bribe still works for me. I can only linger over my wardrobe for so long before I run the risk of cold pancakes or no coffee.
It’s my duty to grind the coffee in our handheld grinder. Usually by the time I begin turning the crank, my husband or I have turned on our favorite radio station, XPN. Every weekend morning, they play a medley of soothing music. We might hear a pop hit, folk song, show tune, or classical movement, but whatever the genre it will be soft and pleasant on the weekend Sleepy Hollow program.
My son loves music and if he’s in a cheerful mood, I will see him dance by bending at the waist and knees and bouncing carefully to the beat. If he’s cranky, he’ll have both arms firmly wrapped around my legs while wailing with all his might. We don’t like to talk about those mornings. Babies shouldn’t be allowed to cry before you’ve had a cup of coffee or at least tea.
Finally it’s time to eat. Usually our pancakes are the healthy kind, loaded with oats and whole wheat, but they become decadent when topped with real Vermont maple syrup. (My New England husband will accept no substitute.)
The baby’s happy – even if he was cranky earlier. We’re happy. Our hands are warmed by our dark morning brew and our bellies are full of dough.
My husband describes the minutes that follow, “I more see us leaning back to allow our breakfast to settle as the cathartic sounds from the radio ease our tensions away. It may appear that we are prepared to stay this way for some time, but the music is also working for us a magic of another kind. Within this program, there is a signal to which we respond with immediate action.”
Keith Brand, the host of Sunday morning Sleepy Hollow, always plays a short set of French songs when it’s time for us to head out the door. We recognize the conclusion of that set by one particular French song that he always plays without fail at 9:00 AM. If we hear that song while at home, then we are late for church. If we hear it pulling out of the driveway, we are spared the embarrassment of sneaking in the back as the pastor begins the call to worship.
One Sunday, Keith Brand went on vacation. We lingered over our coffee for awhile waiting to hear the trio of French songs until one of us spotted the clock on our stove. 9:05. My husband scooped up the baby rapidly buckled him into the carseat, despite his uncomfortably dirty diaper. I grabbed a handful of Cheerios and a banana for his snack as I too hurried out of the door. Fortunately for us, Keith Brand returned from vacation the following week.
Despite the many emotions layered into those few hours prior to church — anxiety and peace, pleasure and panic — I love this weekly ritual.