Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Drive

When I was a kid, I got to sit in the back seat of my mom's station wagon on Sunday afternoons. Dad would take the family on long drives to get out of the house for a while and see something new in the great state of New Jersey. Back then, the name Garden State applied more than it does now. As we rode along, we'd think about what we heard in church that morning for those two seconds my poor parents managed to get us to tell them what our teachers talked about in Sunday School. The conversations often went like this:

King George and the Ducky/King David and Bathsheeba
Pa Grape fills the role of Nathan the Prophet
Mom: What did you learn in class today?
Us: Stuff.
Dad: What sort of stuff?
Us: Flannelgraph stuff!
Mom: About what?
Us: You know, God.

Mostly, it was the flannelgraph that got our attention. If you don't know what a flannelgraph is, then you probably didn't grow up in an Evangelical church, like I did. But those colorful images stuck with me and as I got older I could tell my folks just what the teacher talked about. For a while, as an adult, I got to be the teacher and told the Bible stories with the visual aid of a flannelgraph. We didn't have ones as vivid as the Big Idea folks and Veggies Tales, but they did the trick.

Of course, relaying what went on in our Sunday School classes was only a brief part of the Sunday Drives my siblings and I went on with my folks as kids. Sometimes we had a destination like National Park in Gloucester to see the site of Fort Mercer and learn some local history, or go to our Grandma's house in Camden.

Yes, I grew up in New Jersey and I remember it as a great state. Don't spoil it for me! South Jersey, in the small town of Collingswood, precisely. I do not say "Joisee" - never! - but I do, my children inform me, say "wadder" instead of "water." Usually I am very careful about the placement and enunciation of my T's and other consonants. I learned that in choir practice in the West Collingswood Immanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church. When I sing, I sing "LorD" not "Lor..." and I won't spit on you when I do it either because I'm usually in the first pew. My parents always sat in the front row with us so we had to behave! I do it as much out of habit now, as out of a desire to see the preacher (bad eyesight!). You won't hear me pronounce the T in "often" or add a misplaced T to the word "across." Just thinking about it makes me shudder. I do the best I can not to end a sentence with a preposition. All of these things I learned in New Jersey living almost as far from New York as anyone who lived in Jersey could - not counting the denizens of the shore or the Pine Barrens.

Ah, the Pine Barrens. What great scary stories come out of the Pine Barrens! Tales of the Jersey Devil intrigued me as a child. Scared the living daylights out of me too. Who wouldn't be afraid of a creature that had a horse's head and hooves, horns, wings like a bat and a forked tail? I sure was! Sunday drives weren't just drives on Sunday! No, sir! Why, we would go in the summer time to our cousin's house on the Egg Harbor River where we'd swim in the "iced tea" colored water, eat too much, laugh too much with the family and on the drive home when we were tired and dozing, my father could always be counted on to relate the story of the Devil. Born to Mrs. Leeds of Leeds point, the 13th child of a witch, the devil flew up and out of the chimney the night it was born, leaving all those who saw it terrified. The story inevitably changed with each telling and there are many versions of it today, but the Devil was always consistent and those long rides with the moon glimmering through the trees were enough to keep me from being too unruly when bedtime came!

As if a child's imagination isn't active enough, I discovered recently that the Devil has his own action figure:

Don't that just beat all? ;D

I do miss those days, sometimes, feeling the summer night air pouring in the window as my Dad's deep voice would tell us tales until we couldn't keep our eyes open. Being carried in from the car when we finally got home and tucked in... I haven't taken a good, long Sunday drive in a while. This blog article feels like one of those, meandering, relaxed and joyful. I hope we can take another Sunday Drive together very soon.

Have a wonderful week!


  1. Wow! That's a wonderful thing to remember! Not the Jersey Devil, but the rides that included JD.

    Oddly enough that reminds me of one of my high school history teachers who lived in the Pine Barrens. On occasion he would tell the class about the Jersey Devil and how he would shot at it with a rock salt loaded shot gun.

    Good times . . . good times!

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Fred! Great to have yo along for the ride.