For our family, Sunday was a very special day that began at sunrise and didn’t end until we returned home well after sunset. My parents would get up long before my brothers and me in order to prepare for our big day. My father usually prepared his car by making some last-minute adjustments under the hood and then washing the car in front of the house. My mother would–actually, I’m not sure what my mother did; whenever I woke up early enough to help her, my mother would be very secretive and then tell me to go help my father with the car. Once the car was packed, we would all dress up in our Sunday clothes, which were the very best clothes we owned, and go to Sunday mass at the Mexican church in the neighborhood because the priest said the mass in Spanish. This was a welcome change from the Latin mass at the Lithuanian church where I was really supposed to attend mass with my classmates from the parish grammar school.

After mass, we would all pile into the car, sans seatbelts or child safety seats, and head to the beach, Lincoln Park Zoo,Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, or the Museum of Science and Industry to spend the day there. We usually went somewhere that was free. On the way there, we would stop at el supermercado to buy our food for the picnic. I always thought my mother was packing a picnic basket at home until we went to el supermercado. Anyway, we would buy bolillos, carnitas, chicharrón, atole, and anything else that didn’t require cooking. I guarantee you that nothing tastes better than a bolillo stuffed with carnitas on a beautiful, sunny Sunday at the beach on the Chicago lakefront after going to mass in Spanish! I really loved going to the Museum of Science and Industry and then swimming at the beach afterwards.

Of course, we varied our habits occasionally. Sometimes we would meet friends of the family at the church and ask them to come along with us, or if they had better plans, we would go with them. Once we had a caravan of four cars. This was fun because we would have more children playing together.

Sometimes after mass, we would visit other family members without notice. Sometimes we would go to several houses before we found someone who was actually home! Nothing was ever really planned. Perhaps, that’s why I still like to take spontaneous, unplanned vacations with my sons to this day. When it was time to go home, we would always say good-bye for at least an hour. Well, everyone would say good-bye right away and set a date for the next get-together, but then someone would remember what he or she had been wanting to tell everyone for the longest time. And that, in turn, would remind someone of somebody else who was no longer living in the neighborhood, and so on … But we always had fun!

Well, I don’t want to drag out this good-bye too long. You get the idea. Besides, it’s Sunday and I’m on the way out the door! ¡Adiós!

Did you bring the carnitas?