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SATURDAY'S CHILD : When You're All Grown Up, Weekends Just Aren't What They Used to Be

March 07, 1993|Wanda Coleman

Lethargy sets in. I'm in a daze. Must be that day.

Mondays? No, even when they're stormy, I prefer them. My bad-news-got-gray-skies days are Saturdays.

Usta be childhood weekends began before sunrise watching cartoons until the rest of the house woke up. I spent mornings cleaning my room, mopping floors, vacuuming the rugs and putting away the groceries after Mom's shop. Afternoons were either a trip downtown to the 5th Street library or over to listen to records at Wallichs Music City at Sunset and Vine. Early evenings were dodge ball or keep-away outdoors. After supper meant gathering around the TV in the living room.

When Pop wasn't hanging with the fellas, or gettin' down at the fish fry, we sometimes piled into the Oldsmobile Super 88 and went to the Orange, the Parmount or the Redondo drive-in. Mom would pack a picnic lunch of ham sandwiches and potato chips with a Thermos of hot chocolate. We'd arrive early, find a good spot in the middle of the field, perhaps five or six rows back. My brothers and I would play on the slides and swings until dusk, then we'd snuggle up under blankets in the back seat enrapt by the loud, scratchy mono from the speaker mounted on the inside of the window. Mom preferred light comedies and romances; Pop was into WWII adventures and shoot-'em-ups. But occasionally they would give in and let us indulge in a double bill of monster or horror flicks.

Many firsts fell on Saturday nights: first dates and first kisses. I went to see my first Hollywood movie on a Saturday night. It was "Westside Story." Mom made me a special pink dress for the occasion. I was so nervous that I broke out in ugly hives, which amazingly disappeared by the time I left the theater. But my favorite Saturdays featured concerts at the Philharmonic or languid excursions through the dinosaur exhibit at Exhibition Park.

But since adulthood, Saturdays have lost their shine. Invariably I start them off cranky and rest-broken. Chances are I've been up into the morning, and the phone, bustling neighbors slamming their gate or some truck unloading off the alley wakes me up prematurely. When this happens, I'm evil all day.

When you're working a regular job, the weekend rituals become numbingly routine, dictated by how you're rewarded for your labor. When you're paid monthly, three Saturdays are free for music lessons, morning workshops and seminars or sleeping late. If you're paid every two weeks, alternate Saturdays may give you enough time to catch up with a friend or take in a matinee. If you're paid weekly, it's the day for whatever shopping remains to be done that wasn't done the week before.

If you've forgotten a utility bill, services are cut off on Friday evening. The weekend may start with no phone, gas or electricity until you get a check or money order into the office first thing Monday morning.

The deadliest Saturdays fall around the first and the 15th. Everyone's out taking care of business, cashing checks, descending on swap meets, doing all the things that had to wait all week. Freeway traffic out of Hollywood into downtown is usually at a standstill. If you don't hit that 110 North leaving South-Central before noon, it'll be bumper-to-bumper till nearly 6 p.m. But fast food and restaurant food tend to be fresher because of the rapid turnover. I like forgoing gridlock to drive north on Crenshaw, watching for the tall, nattily dressed black Muslims hawking $5 bean or cheese pies in hot-pink boxes.

Most funerals and memorial services take place that day. Saturday is the day after the night lovers' hearts are broken, the first day one must get through solo. Recent suicide statistics surprisingly report that most are committed on Sundays. It's my theory that the weakened spirit is ultimately broken by the eternity of a Saturday night spent alone, while the rest of the world is having a party.

Occasionally, I spend Saturdays sitting up at Mom's playing Scrabble, crunching chocolate-chip cookies and waiting for lethargy to lift. But my favorite Saturdays are the rainy ones. If I'm blessed with the time, I take my daylong pleasure curled up in bed, favorite jams wafting softly from the stereo, sipping something hot, smoking a good book.

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