Minutes before we humans begin to stir in our beds, the dogs know. They are pacing around the room, instead of lying quietly on the floor as is their way on every other morning, patiently waiting for signs that the day has officially begun. This morning they are awake and alert, with two sets of imploring eyes fixed on us, as if their intensity alone could levitate us from the bed. Then, when it is my husband, and not I, who is the first to respond, to sit up and plant two feet on the floor, they are certain. It is Sunday and my old, arthritic yellow Labrador retrievers begin leaping with joy!
Mah nishtanah, I want to say to my dogs. What makes this day different from all other days? How do you know it’s Sunday? I scrutinize my bedroom for physical evidence. The clock reads about seven o’clock, the same time we awaken every morning. The same amount of light slips in between the crack in the draperies covering our east-facing windows. There are no unusual sounds; no church bells can be heard. And yet they know.
They follow him to the bathroom and back to the bedroom, so closely that he is barely able to pull up his pants or get his shoes on. They are impatient as he brushes his teeth. Droplets of saliva on the floor are signs of their anticipation. Finally he is ready, and the dialogue begins.
“Davie, Bette, do you know what day this is? Do you?”
Whine. Bark. Leap. Pant. Salivate.
“It’s Sunday. Sunday is bagel day. Come on, let’s go get a bagel!”
In a veil of flying dog fur, the three march out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and into the car to carry out their mission: bring home the Sunday bagels, and of course, eat one or two along the way.
Over ten years, knowledge of our little Sunday ritual has spread to our friends and family. We are teased about the sanctity we have bestowed on this occasion. His friends know better than to ask my husband for an early golf date on a Sunday morning. Sunday brunch is out of the question. We are gently mocked, but at the same time I sense a degree of envy. We have succeeded in creating a bit of fun. A piece of silliness that is guaranteed to lighten our hearts and ensure that we laugh at least once a week. It is, after all, in the best weekend tradition, whether your Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday, that there is one day when thoughts are diverted from mundane concerns.
Our grandchildren, when we are together, now share in the Sunday practice. Up early, they catch Papa just as he and the dogs are about to leave, and place their orders. Little Jack wants a rainbow bagel; Allie wants plain, Leah and Kira like sesame, and Chloe, well, she’s not sure she wants one at all. We delight in their participation and their innocent sweet acceptance of Bagel Day as a completely normal phenomenon.
I like to think we are giving them a precious memory. One day when they are grown and we are no longer here, they will no doubt eat a bagel. They will think of their grandfather driving off in the car each week with Bette and Davis in the back, their mouths open and tongues protruding, because these dogs know unquestionably that it’s Bagel Sunday.