During my high school years, Sunday evenings triggered a festering pit of dread in my gut. My father would turn on 60 Minutes only to find that the “goddamn football game” wasn’t over yet. It was as predictable as the fact that the next morning would bring a new week of school, requiring me to wake up too early, only to fall asleep in geometry class, and awaken 40 minutes later with my cheek resting next to a shimmering pool of desk drool.
Now, 25 years later, Sunday nights bring, not only my favorite television shows — unencumbered by America’s favorite lite beer and nacho fueled homoerotic team wrestling event — but also a feeling of relief that the weekend is finally over and my family can get back to its routine: the boys off to school and various classes; I up to the confines of my office; and my wife, Lindsay, off to Trader Joes, or her “dance garage,” and after that, maybe an abandoned warehouse to angrily chop wood, or whatever else she does with the hour or two of free time she gets each weekday.
I understand that in families where both parents work outside of the home, weekends represent a time when everyone can be together and blissfully argue about the television and attempt picnics that end abruptly when someone gets stung by a bee. But given that neither Lindsay or I work traditional jobs, and we’re home all goddamn day, weekends feel like that 15 minutes at the end of a dinner party when everyone is slightly reluctant and searching for their coats.
These days it’s Friday night that causes a feeling of trepidation. Not because we don’t enjoy all being together, but because, somehow, we always fail to make plans. It’s not our fault; there’s literally nothing to do here—ever. We live in a commuter town in New Jersey, and given that roughly 80% of the other residents go to Manhattan every weekday, leaving at 7am and returning at 7pm, it feels like an off-season ski village around here. Sure, there are parks and playgrounds, but in the winter they’re usually empty because all the other families appear to be members of an exclusive napping club to which we’ve never been invited. Many of them have extended family nearby whom they visit, and so do we. Lindsay’s sister, brother in law and their kids live in Brooklyn, and we sometimes make the trail of traffic tears to visit them, but usually one of our kids — neither of whom is supposed to nap anymore — falls asleep on the way home and as a result, stays up until 10:30pm, which should frankly be illegal.
There are other things to do, like wander around Target, go to the village bookstore, or spend $140 for a one hour visit to the Lincoln Science Center where we eat hotdogs until we puke, but beyond that, we’re at home trying to find puzzle pieces and thinking that there must be more to Saturday and Sunday than inventing inside games with rules everyone can agree on. Luckily, the crocuses are blooming and our neighbors are slowly starting to hang around outside again. It’s been a long winter, and I’m ready to start grilling steaks and pounding O’Douls.