Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blue Sunday

As Jews, our weekly service was Friday evening, but Sunday school was Sunday school, which I was dragged to each week until I was about ten and my brother reached his Confirmation. Unlike Sunday School in most churches ("...and oh what a friend we have in Je-sus..."), our Sunday school was a little bit of wrathful God and old testament stories, and a lot of about living in Israel and the struggle for independence.

Each Sunday we put our quarters in the can so we could build a wall in Israel, or plant a tree in Israel. Then we listened to stories about how great it would be to live on a kibbutz, where we were toiled we as children would be handed over to live in a nursery while our parents toiled in the fields for the greater good. "In a kibbutz, you will play with other children and see your parents on the Sabbath," our Sunday school teacher said with dreams of collective equality in her voice.

For a kid growing up in a violent household, where the rage just simmered under the radar and insecurity was served with a heaping helping of passive aggressiveness, did nothing but make me anxious. In fact, I cried a lot. A child in a household like I had only wants to feel loved and secure, and for me, being secure meant being close to my mother. To take me to a place like the Israel of the 1960s was to drop me off in a desert, with a couple walls and no trees and deny me the only safe haven I knew of. Needless to say I dreaded being dragged to Sunday school.

But after Sunday school - that was the promise of fun because it meant we would get to become criminals and go buy things on the black market.

In the 1960s, Ohio still had Blue laws - laws that prevent the operation of businesses on the Sabbath - that dated to Johnny Tremaine days. This not only meant that there was nothing to do on Sunday and no where to go, but if you needed something basic like a gallon of milk, you were shit out of luck. Drug stores could open, but that was about it.

My dad knew someone who knew someone who worked at a drug store that was attached to a market in Cedar Road at Green Road. On Sunday's the drug store was open, but they dropped this curtain between the two stores and the supermarket was dark. The guy would let you - one by one - into the market to get a gallon of milk, but nothing else.

My father, who was a very law abiding person, aside from the illegal phone we had in our house, would let me come with him as we would make our way through the store, grab a milk, and take it to the guy, who would take the cash, put in a sack and then we would leave, coolly walking to the car with the package which could "land us in a whole heap of trouble if the police knew about it."

This was added to our litany of family secrets. But unlike the fights between my mother and father, and simmering hate in the household, the purchase of milk on Sunday morning and the spare phone we hid from the phone company so we wouldn't have to pay a rental charge on it, were two of the secrets that were never mentioned. Until now.


  1. oy gevalt! that milk might as well have come from the teat of the devil himself! such lawlessness! to think that you could be serving a life sentence in state prison!

  2. And someone in our house should have been given the chair for that illegal phone!