Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace”: A Glimpse Into America’s Past…and Future

“Right from the beginning, I always strived to capture everything I saw as completely as possible.”

Norman Rockwell

Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell

Saying Grace, Norman Rockwell (1959)

 

The sun always seems to brighten on Sunday mornings, and in spite of the dreary rain, today was no exception. Mid-morning sunshine filtered through the worn and dirty glass of the café windows, filling the cozy room with a warm glow that felt like home.

Hungry visitors bustled about the room, eager to escape the gray, freezing rain and exchange their dripping coats for the inviting aroma of brewing coffee and fresh-baked bread. A sweet, pungent cloud of cigar smoke drifted from table to table, stinging my eyes as I blinked several times in an attempt to clear my vision.

The gentleman across the table from me stopped our conversation in mid-sentence, and I threw him a sharp glance. He didn’t notice, however. The newspaper he had been reading had fallen from his fingers, landing next to his half-eaten croissant. His cigar fell limp in his hand as he stared, open-mouthed, at a table across the room.

Following his gaze, I saw an old spinster – maybe in her sixties – wearing her Sunday best. She was dressed in black, and her sopping umbrella was propped against two heavy traveling bags. I found myself wondering where this pleasant old woman had come from – if she was just coming into town or preparing to leave – and if she had just come from church… or maybe a funeral.   Her frail hands were clasped in prayer, and she bowed her head in reverence, determined to shut out the noisy scene about her. Her lips were motionless. Whatever she was saying, it was between her and the good Lord.

Next to her sat a young boy, blonde hair gleaming in the sun. A grandchild, perhaps. Following the woman’s example, his head was bowed in earnest. His youth and innocence stood in stark contrast to the filthy haze of his surroundings, his fair head taking on an angelic sheen in the morning light.

Only moments before an old sailor had stomped into the room, shouting a string of curses and flooding the room with his blustering cough. Upon seeing the small family in prayer, however, he stopped in his tracks. To my surprise, the gruff seaman removed his hat and nodded in reverence for half a heartbeat. No matter who you are or where you’ve been, there are some things that demand respect – and having a conversation with God is one of them.

This fact seems to have been lost on younger generations, though. Across the table from the praying couple sat two older teens, hunched over their coffee (which could have been laced with liquor, the way they guarded their steaming mugs). One fair-haired teen shook his head in disgust at this open display of faith. His companion, an awkward kid in baggy pants and a salesman’s cap, gawked at the couple as if they were just another exhibit at the zoo, blowing a careless puff of cigarette smoke in their general direction.

A deep sadness washed over me as I watched the two young men. I wasn’t sure which caused me more pain – their obvious disrespect, or the nagging thought that it was as if they had never seen anyone pray in public before.

Are they the future of our country? I thought, my eyes growing misty.

Just then, the storm clouds parted outside and the sun’s rays intensified the halo effect around the young boy’s tiny head.

No… a voice inside my heart whispered. He is.

 

 

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Writing 101 Day 8 Challenge: Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Today’s Twist: Write an adverb-free post.

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9 thoughts on “Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace”: A Glimpse Into America’s Past…and Future

  1. cursing loudly
    simply demand
    simply shook his head
    watched the two young men intently
    they had apparently never seen

    I liked the story a lot. Excellent. I loved the message. Maybe what I found are not adverbs. American English is an alien hybrid melting pot of beautiful languages made ugly by a desire to be different.

    Much Respect
    Ronovan

    Like

    1. Oh, these are definitely adverbs… I’m so used to throwing them in there, that I don’t even think about it! This was the hardest assignment so far, for me (obviously)….

      Thanks for taking time to jot all of these down… I think I’m at the point where I want to just forget what Stephen King said about adverbs and use them anyway – LOL!

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      1. Flash Fiction is a key. It makes you cut and cut. My Bus Stop Stories is where I practice. Toppings and Blue Socks are examples of my Bus Stop Stories. You get to the point where the adverbs don’t come to mind or if they do they set off alarms in a painful manner.

        They still happen but not as often.

        Like

  2. I LOVED IT!!!! Very well written!! Great job! Loved the descriptions and the back story… And even better that its totally from an old Norman Rockwell print! Love those too!!

    Like

    1. I agree that Norman Rockwell paintings are nothing short of amazing when it comes to American nostalgia… thanks for stopping by – I’m glad you liked my description! (Even if I didn’t actually go anywhere, unless you count my imaginary trip back in time, thanks to Mr. Rockwell!)

      Like

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