As mentioned one of this blog’s earliest posts, our family has grown to have a great appreciation for the custom of Sunday rest. Unless some kind of true necessity arises, such as unavoidable professional work or bringing in hay before the rain ruins the crop, we spend Sundays going to church and hanging out with family or close friends. We try not to even shop on Sundays, apart from last-minute dinner necessities that may arise.
I was initially skeptical — and resistant — about this new approach to Sunday, but Mrs. Yeoman Farmer insisted we give it a try. For that I am grateful; it’s really changed our family for the better. I can’t imagine trading our current Sundays for the ones we used to spend.
Especially when I’m forced by circumstances to revisit those “bad old” Sundays, as I was a couple of weeks ago. Two Sundays before Thanksgiving, we planned to spend the day visiting MYF’s brother and his family in the Detroit suburbs. We hadn’t seen them in awhile, and the timing was also good for delivering the Thanksgiving turkey.
The day didn’t go as planned. Oh, we made it to church just fine that morning. We came home and got ready to go to Detroit just fine. We got onto the freeway just fine. But less than a mile down I-96, I heard the unmistakable sound of one of our minivan’s tires blowing out and rubber flapping on pavement.
I managed to steer onto the shoulder, and got out to inspect the damage. The right rear tire was basically shredded, so I prepared to fix it. Keep in mind the weather was cold and overcast, and cars were whizzing by a few feet away. Mrs Yeoman Farmer was in the car with all four kids, plus our new dog (Pepper), who we can’t yet leave alone at home for extended periods. We also had the frozen turkey in a cooler, of course.
On a Dodge Caravan, the spare tire is under the chassis and must be lowered by turning a bolt inside the vehicle. I’d done this once before, so was familiar with the mechanism. However, unlike that other time, on this particular day the tire refused to lower itself. The bolt turned fine. The cable of the winch system played out just fine. But the tire itself remained stuck to the bottom of the van. I pried at it with the minimal tools available. It wouldn’t budge, no matter what I tried.
Thank God for AAA. They got us a tow truck within about 20 minutes, and the driver (a really nice, younger guy) had fortunately seen this exact problem before. After a couple of minutes of fiddling and prying with his crowbar, the spare tire dropped free. He filled it to maximum capacity with air, lifted the van with his hydraulic jack, removed the old wheel with his impact driver, and had the spare installed in no time flat. He even gave us a jump start, because we’d run our four-way flashers so long the battery no longer had enough power to turn the motor over.
We thanked him, and were again on our way toward Detroit. This was my first time driving with one of those lousy temporary “donut” spare tires, and it was as bad as I imagined. Even fully inflated, it wasn’t safe to drive more than about 55-60 MPH on the freeway. The handling was terrible. We stayed in the right lane, and let everybody else buzz past us.
We arrived very late, but all in once piece. I dropped everyone else off at my in-laws’, then headed up to the local Sam’s Club in search of a new set of tires. There was no way I was driving 70 miles home that night, in the dark and in the cold, on that temporary thing, with the whole family in the car and no spare to fall back on. Given that we’d put over 70,000 miles on this set of tires, I figured it was just a matter of time before the rest of them started going. This was definitely the day to get a whole new set.
Unfortunately, the Sam’s Club just up the street didn’t have a tire center. The tire store in the same shopping center was closed on Sundays. As was the Belle Tire a few miles down Grand River. My brother in law suggested I try the Sears Auto Center at the local shopping mall; they did in fact turn out to be open. But because they were pretty much the only place open that day, everybody and his brother had come to get their cars worked on. (With the cold snap that morning, they apparently were doing a booming business installing new batteries.) They did have a set of tires in my size, but said it’d be 90 minutes to get them installed. I had no choice but to get my car in line and wait.
And wait. And wait. They did have a football game on in the waiting room, which was nice. But I’d a thousand times rather have been hanging out with my in-laws, watching the game at their place with them. The game dragged on, and then the late game came on. Sears ran into problem after problem with my tires; first, they turned out not to have the cheaper tires in the right size for our vehicle and had to get my permission to spend lots more installing a more expensive set. Given that I was basically stuck, I told them to go ahead and do it. Then, as they were pulling the old tires, one of the mounting studs snapped off. They had to find me again, ask if I wanted to pay for a new one, and then search around to see if they had the part.
Once it became clear my van would be unavailable for a lot more than 90 minutes, and I’d lost interest in football, I decided to take a stroll through the Twelve Oaks Mall for a change of scenery. All I can say is: I am never going to willingly set foot in another suburban shopping mall again. Especially not on a Sunday. The place was jammed, and already decked out with Christmas decorations in mid-November. Kids were getting their photos taken with Santa. But the worst part was the cacophonous noise, and the impossibility of escaping from it. That, and the utter frivolity and idiocy of so much of what was for sale. Not just the skanky lingere stores. Or the “clothing” aimed at teenagers. So much of what the stores were peddling were frivolous trinkets, and junk I couldn’t imagine letting my kids waste their money on.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and retreated to the relative peace and quiet of the Sears Auto Center waiting room as fast as I could. Our van didn’t get finished until nearly 6pm, so I had plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts. I was grateful for several things: that we homeschool, and our kids aren’t asking to dress the way most kids at the mall were dressing. That we live so far away from suburban shopping malls, and don’t need to visit them for anything but emergencies. That we’ve rejected the frivolity and consumerism on such blatant display at these places. And, above all, that Sundays have become such a welcome refuge for our family from all this noise and chaos. When I was single, and living in the Detroit suburbs myself, I used to regularly patronize this very same mall on many Sundays…and used to think nothing of it. In fact, I used to enjoy getting out and going there. Now, as I sat in Auto Center Purgatory, I couldn’t imagine any more foreign place than a suburban shopping mall to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Once the van was ready, I hurried back to rejoin the family for what remained of our Sunday refuge from the world. Dinner was just being served as I arrived, and it was absolutely wonderful. Not just the food, but especially the company. I was sorry to have missed so much of the day, but grateful to at least be spending the main meal together. And especially grateful to Mrs. Yeoman Farmer for her insistence that we live the custom of Sunday Rest the way we have. Catching a glimpse of what life is like without that rest was a powerful confirmation of its value.
And I must add one more thing for which I’m grateful: the AAA dispatcher, the tow truck driver, those folks at Sears Auto Center, and all the others who must work on Sundays to ensure that families like ours can still get the essential services we might need. I sincerely hope that all of them are able to get some other day of rest with their families during the week.