Friday Night, Age 5

The couch was an odd color—a plaid-like pattern of burnt orange, dark brown-black, and yellowish puce, a bit like the color I imagine a seasick landlubber would turn. But then, as a garage sale deal found by my parents shortly after their marriage, it wasn’t likely to be an example of high fashion. Over the back of the couch hung an afghan, crocheted by one of my great-grandmothers, I think. Its colors were similar to the couch but mellowed slightly by a predominant cream.

Stiff-backed and hard-armed, it wasn’t a particularly comfortable couch either. A hide-a-bed underneath meant sub-cushion springs poking into my back whenever I flopped down to read a book. Beige and cream-striped pillows softened the arms slightly. But only slightly.

It is Friday, and I am five years old. My dad has returned home from work, and he, my mom, my younger brother and I have already eaten dinner. Now, my dad and I strip the cushions off the couch, my small hands likely more of a hindrance than a help. I watch as he unfolds the hide-a-bed, and my mom works to secrete the thin, limp mattress beneath freshly laundered sheets.

Earlier that evening, we had taken a trip to the small movie rental within our local Dillon’s and picked a Friday night movie. Now, with a bowl of microwave popcorn to split between us, we all clamber onto the couch to watch, my younger brother and I tucked securely between our parents.

What is the movie? The Swan Princess, perhaps? It’s a favorite—of mine, at least, and as the oldest child with my brother still too young to care, I usually have final say. But then, Thumbelina, Homeward Bound, and A Little Princess are also favorites, so it could be one of those.

Whatever the movie is, as I watch, a warm happiness settles inside me. Later, I will analyze this time more fully, realizing how blessed I was to live in a home with two parents who loved each other and who loved me. Later, I will come to appreciate the love for simple pleasures that my parents instilled in me at such an early age. But for now, at age five, I know only that this is good. This is right.

When the movie finishes, my parents carry my brother and me to our bedrooms, get us into our pajamas, and make sure our teeth have been brushed. I lie in bed and listen to my dad tell a story about Henry, his boyhood hamster who had a long and glorious career as an escape artist. I beg for another, and he complies by telling of the time that Bo, the neighborhood Rottweiler, threatened to attack and my dad whacked him with a crowbar.

Finally, he says it’s time to sleep. He and my mom thank God for the day and for the time we had to spend together and ask that I will sleep well. Then, they kiss me goodnight and leave the room, turning out the lights as they go.

I snuggle under my sheet. As one of my favorite fictional characters would say, and as I feel instinctively, “God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world.”

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