Gideon was having a very bad day. Usually, a bad day for Gideon can simply be measured by seeing whether he was forced to leave the house or not. If his dirty little feet were ever stuffed into a pair of socks and shoes and he was marched like a prisoner out to the car, then it was definitely a bad day. If he sat at home for the 15th day straight and forgot that the outside world even existed, then that was a very good day. Gideon has had a year full of very good days. But this was not one of them.
His father had the day off from work this day, so he wasn’t able to use “The Big Computer” all morning like he had wanted to. And then his big sister made everyone steamers out of hot milk and he had tried to drink it too quickly and burned the end of his tongue. Then just as he was getting over these life-changing disappointments it was announced that he would be spending the afternoon with his family… “outside”. And you would think that he had been told that his village had voted to toss him into an erupting volcano. He was not happy.
When he was sent upstairs to his room to find socks, he tried to hide in the closet instead. Then, when he had been found and socks had been forced into his hands, he had tried to “accidentally” lose those socks under the couch instead of putting them on. Then, when he had still resisted the torments of leaving the house, he had to be held in the air like a large frightened crab and carried to the garage, his little pincers flailed, pulling pictures from the walls and clinging vainly at the door frames along the way.
He was asleep before the car left the driveway, as is tradition. And as soon as the family arrived at their first stop, he woke up, blinked around at the world, and then groaned as he realized it was still “outside”. Everything had not all just been a bad dream. Then the little boy politely asked his parents if they were about to go back home soon, and he groaned again when he was told, “No, we are not going home soon. We are outside the house, and we are going to be outside the house all afternoon, until the sun is gone, because leaving the house is exhausting and we are not going to just waste it by turning right around and going back immediately.”
The boy looked out the car window, folded his arms across his chest, and frowned. He was not having a good day.
But then a special moment came and the boy’s father watched in the rearview mirror as a tiny glimmer appeared in the little boy’s eyes that betrayed a realization that maybe the outside world wasn’t really all that bad after all. This was when the family went to a restaurant to buy some enchiladas for lunch. After so many days locked up inside the house, Gideon had apparently forgotten that there were special foods that only exist in this terrible volcano world and never appeared in the safe comforts of the family room at home. Sometimes that food was enchiladas.
This seemed to raise his mood from “angry at everything” to “uncomfortable but curious”.
His parents, already exhausted before doing even a single errand for the day, collapsed into a corner booth and made sure everyone had the silverware and drinks they needed, eager to eat a meal that they didn’t have to make themselves.
When the food arrived, they all joined hands for a prayer. Gideon eyed his plate quietly and then looked up at his family and said, “Would it be okay if I said the prayer this time?”
The boy’s father studied him for a few moments. He seemed a bit apprehensive to allow the boy this honor, given the child’s mood just a few moments earlier. But finally, he nodded, “Sure, of course,” he said. But the man did not look away from his son. He watched as the little boy obediently pressed his eyes closed very tightly and softly squeezed his sisters’ hands on either side of him, and then took a very deep breath and began to speak. His words were so quiet that they were nearly incomprehensible from the other side of the table. He talked to God about the day, about waking up that morning, about the projects he was working on at home, about what he was hoping to do later on that day once he got back. He talked about his sisters, and what he liked and did not like about each of them. He talked about how he didn’t like leaving the house sometimes. He talked about how other times leaving the house was okay sometimes. He talked about how much he liked his family, and Christmas lights, and cookies, and he talked about the games he liked to play. He talked for several minutes until his sisters started to become uncomfortable and one of them even laid their head down onto the table and looked like she might fall asleep soon, and still, he kept praying. Periodically one of his eyes would open and he would peer down at his enchilada as if to make sure that it was still there and then he would close it again as he talked about how he wanted time to go faster and the sun to go down sooner so they could all go home. And his father watched as the sun dipped below the trees outside the window and still the soft-spoken little boy kept talking.
Then, finally, he opened his eye one last time and he nodded as if he were satisfied with what he saw and his quiet little voice said, “And God, I pray that our food is cold now so that I won’t burn my tongue again. Amen.”
And his sisters sighed a relieved “Amen” and picked up their forks and knives and attacked their plates.
But the boy and his father were still looking at each other. The father’s eyes were narrowed watching as his son smiled to himself and carefully unraveling the fork from the napkin next to his plate. He then used it to poke a few test holes into his enchilada. Then, he raised the fork to his lips and tapped it gently against his timid pink tongue.”
So, is it cold now?” his father asked tiredly.
The boy’s face brightened and a broad grin appeared. “Yes!”
“Well,” his father picked up his own fork and began to cut up his warm burrito. “I guess it’s a good day after all.”
The boy just smiled and shrugged. “I guess, it was always good. But this makes it better.”