The Sunday Papers

            Something is disappearing in living rooms, dens, and studies across this great land. Maybe it’s already gone in your home. In our home, though, my husband and I are holding on, refusing to accept the reality that the Sunday newspapers of our youth are just about gone.

            As a kid growing up, the Sunday morning ritual of grabbing the funnies first (or later on when tastes matured in equal proportion to chronological aging, settling in to read the Parade Magazine) was part of the fabric of our American lives. Not so much today, and more’s the pity.

            My husband is just old enough to remember a time when reading the newspaper was paired with listening to the radio. Lying on the floor reading the daily newspaper, and then, on Sundays after church, spending hours pouring over the pages of the Sunday edition was a treat, not a chore. Are there people out there, like us, that remember the joy of black newsprint fingers?

            Newspapers, you know, those cheap paper printed communication vehicles that crunch when you turn the pages and require map-folding skills to get the most reading pleasure from their broadsheet sizing, are nearly a thing of the past. (Pause to sigh deeply, for many minutes, as I collect my thoughts and emotions.)

            Newspapers are something that united my family in a common activity that we could all agree on. Newspapers taught us negotiation skills. “I’ll let you have the funnies first if you’ll pass me the sports page.” The room would be absent familial strife and struggle as we each dove headfirst into reading the newspaper sections of our preference. What wonderous adventures could be found in the travel pages. High fashion, haute couture silliness gave rise to my Barbie doll creations while Ma tried her hand at the crossword puzzle and Dad read and re-read the used car classifieds.

            While the grown-ups focused on world news, the kids in the house all wanted the funnies. Blondie, Peanuts, Marmaduke, Beetle Bailey, Hagar, B.C. and Dick Tracey come rebounding to my frontal cortex out of the darkness that is otherwise known as “I can’t remember.” To have lived during a time when entertainment was easily found in a four-panel sequence of fun – well, if you don’t have these memories, you simply will never know what truly being alive is all about. (Another deep sigh.)

            Later on, as the decades advanced there was Non Sequitor, Dilbert, Doonesbury, and the much beloved and grieved Calvin & Hobbes. Sunday, regardless of the weather conditions or realities that had to be faced, was just a bit easier after a leisurely romp through the funnies.

            It’s a quiet pursuit for the most part, reading the newspaper, that is. Oh, there is or was, I should say, the occasional, “You have got to read this!” Or the eager lament, “Will you hurry up, I want to see what Kennedy said yesterday.” 

            On Sundays, back in the day, the paper was huge – I mean literally huge. The Sunday papers of my youth were heavy tomes of importance. Just bringing it in from the driveway or tooting it home from the market required super-human strength. That is, if you were a 6-year old kid.

            Truth is, advertisers needed the newspapers and the newspapers needed the advertiser making it a match made in marketing heaven. The Sunday newspaper was chock-a-block of full-page display advertisements and many, many pages of classified ads driving up page count. Today, instead of reading an ad and being wowed by its message, you are bombarded with digital marketing bits 24/7.

            But, back to the newspapers we love(d). There was something for everyone regardless of your reading level. And how many of you out there remember learning to read by studying the newspaper, or snuggling up with a grandchild to read the funnies aloud and harmoniously together? The Sunday newspapers were a time to bond over a shared activity. 

            My husband doesn’t need any help carrying the Sunday papers to our reading spot in the living room. “Damn, no Parade Magazine again this week!” he is wont to say on many occasions. My standard reply has become, “No loss.” That cultural Sunday supplement is so diminished in size, its meager pages are barely worth the effort of reaching across the coffee table to retrieve it from the pile. Heck, even the ‘pile’ is a little more than a few measly pages.

            If you are reading this sad tale, you love newspapers. Thank you for that. Thank you for taking the time to not only pick up this printed account of life in the Tri-Town area over the past seven days, but also for actually reading it.

            I loathe the day when on a Sunday morning instead of sitting down with the heavenly scent of hot coffee I reach across the table and turn on some version of an iPad. I will always want that crinkly, crunchy section of printed paper that can transport me into the mind of a political mover and shaker, or inspire me to cook up something using scotch bonnets. I want always to look forward to peaceful Sunday mornings, especially during the dark of winter when hours somehow slip pleasantly away while my eyes take a journey across and down printed column inches.

            We have stopped reading the daily papers in lieu of electronically transmitted bytes. But we hold on dearly to our Sunday newspaper fix. When those too become a thing of the past, when I pick-up my phone on a Sunday morning to try and find something worth reading but only find my social media friends have updated their profile pictures, well, then life as we knew it will have come to an unholy end.

            I told my granddaughter as she prepared to return to college a few hours away from home, “I’ll clip out articles I think you might find inspiring for essays and mail them to you.” I meant the real thing, you know, real newspaper being clipped, folded, slipped into an envelope, and send via the United States Postal Service. She looked at me with a gentle smile that said something like, “You poor old thing.” Instead, she simply said, “Okay Gramma,” hugged me, and went on her way into the world where, one day, newspapers, the USPS, and I will all be a memory. I hope it will be fond.

This Mattapoisett Life

By Marilou Newell

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