That Saturday Feeling

I like going to the cleaners and the coffee shop on Saturday morning.

Condeleezza Rice

When I was younger, I recall a distinctive feeling that used to sweep over me each Saturday. Every now and then it comes to me again. How to describe it?

The week is over, so are classes for a while. The homework can wait. The day is wide open. And it was usually sunny where I grew up. Saturday is different and what is clearly different about it is the prospect of not having anything I must do. It is a free day. That which must be done can be put on hold for a day.


Today is Saturday
a day to relax
and lie in the sun
a day to drink lemonade
when all the works done
a day to eat strawberries

Barbara Stahly

And so the Saturday feeling is a blank space, an open range of possibilities and unknowns. It is like being at a traffic circle that takes off in half a dozen different directions. Which one to take? Around and around I go.

In remembering that elusive feeling, I am, of course, also reminded of Ian McEwan’s novel, Saturday, a novel that engrossed me for days. In Saturday McEwan charts a Saturday in the life of a reflective, London neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne. Henry rises early, glances out the open window of his townhouse and sees a plane off in the distance falling in flames as it approaches Heathrow. The mood is set. It looks like Henry’s Saturday is going to be an ominous one.

And yet I think Perowne also felt that special Saturday feeling as he started to ponder the day ahead and how he might spend it. He didn’t have to rush off to the hospital, worry about his next operation, give a lecture or attend an endless series of meetings. He could do pretty much whatever he wanted—play squash with a good friend, take a drive in his silver Mercedes, plan what to cook for a family gathering that evening, or simply ruminate about his discipline, his family, and the troublesome times in which he lives.

And Henry ruminates a great deal:

For the past two hours he’s been in a dream of absorption that has dissolved all sense of time, and all awareness of the other parts of his life. Even his awareness of his own existence has vanished. He’s been delivered into a pure present, free of the weight of the past the past or any anxieties about the future. In retrospect, though never at the time, it feels like profound happiness. …. This state of mind brings a contentment he never finds with any passive form of entertainment. Books, cinema, even music can’t bring him to this... He feels calm, and spacious, fully qualified to exist.

Yes, to a certain extent that is the way I feel on Saturday now—momentarily free of the past, a sense of calm about the day ahead. And when Saturday is over, I am likely to measure myself a little bit by how I chose fill up the space that loomed before me as the day began.