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May 3, 2022

Do They Remember?

Deborah Goodrich Royce’s first psychological thriller, FINDING MRS. FORD, was published in 2019 to rave reviews. Her second, the highly praised RUBY FALLS, released in 2021 and is now available in paperback. In last year’s Mother’s Day Author blog series, Deborah wrote a wonderful piece about memorable moments, or markers, in her life --- the most important of which involved raising her daughters and witnessing their various milestones and achievements. This year, Deborah returns to share another marker with us --- a Sunday evening ritual that allowed her to spend quality time with her girls and read with them.


For a period of years when my girls were in elementary school, we created a Sunday evening ritual, hoping to distinguish that night from the other six of the week. Less harried and rushed. Less open to distractions from the outside world. And less devoted to the ever-present To Do list that pressed down on all of our lives: work for the adults in the family, schoolwork for the children. We were trying, if you will, to open up some space inside of time and, in so doing, start the week with a more expansive and relaxed mindset. That was my goal, anyway.

The evening began with an early dinner, always in the dining room and always with candles. The food was never fancy; they were children with timid palates, and fancy was not to their taste. Cloth napkins were used, and sometimes a tussle would ensue with my youngest, who just didn’t understand the purpose of keeping that napkin on her lap. The final reasoning that got through to her was when I finally stopped trying to explain the “whys” of a napkin on a lap and just asked her to do it to humor me. That she could understand, the doing of something that seemed arbitrary to her as a kindness toward someone she loved.

After clearing the table, blowing out the candles and loading the dishwasher, the evening moved on to a bath and those once-a-week personal care activities like nail-trimming and blow drying their hair in front of the lighted dressing table mirror in mommy and daddy’s room. Once they were in their pajamas, robes and slippers, down we would go to the living room to sit in front of the fire and read. This was not a homework assignment. Sunday was not a homework night. The idea was to have completed homework at some other point in the weekend to allow for this special time together.

While we all read on our own every night of the week, Sunday night was reserved for reading together. And the choice at that moment in time was always the same: D’AULAIRES’ BOOK OF GREEK MYTHS. I was the one who chose it, of course; it was not a book my girls would have known. Filled with wonderful drawings and retellings of the great stories of gods and goddesses, kings and commoners, these myths are foundational in western art, music and literature. They have shaped us and the way we look at the world. They are part of our collective education, and it meant a great deal to me to be able to share them with my young daughters.

Do my girls remember these Sunday evenings in front of the fire as we wandered through the myths of ancient Greece? I don’t know. Our lives changed suddenly when they were 9 and 12. We went through the disruption and heartbreak of divorce, and by the time they were in middle school, that rhythm had been lost. Maybe it would have been lost anyway simply because they were growing up.

In recent years, though, I have noticed that my older daughter, the one who is now a mother herself, carves out her family’s Sunday evenings as sacred time for quiet ritual just among themselves. It makes me happy. Because it doesn’t matter if my daughters remember those evenings specifically. We don’t do things as parents to be remembered for doing them. We do them because we are trying to impart the best of what we know and value to those precious beings in our charge for a short while and, in so doing, give them a few tools with which to create their own lives.

Just this week, I have bought a new copy of D’AULAIRES’ BOOK OF GREEK MYTHS. In case anyone wants to come over for some grandmother time.