Michael says, “We’ll just keep the box in sight and the first one who feels like it’s too much will close it. It’s pretty simple, right?”
John nods in agreement and says, “Let’s just open the box. Maybe the first time was just a fluke and we were laughing for no reason.”
Henry looks down at the box and lifts the lid like he expects a cobra to spring out. The three boys wait in suspended animation. At that very moment, there is a loud clap of thunder and a bolt of lightening streaks outside their window. In the next second, the power goes outs. As they plunge into darkness, Henry begins to laugh and he laughs with such abandon that he falls off the bed. Michael grabs a pillow and rolls onto the floor right after him, laughing as he hits the floor. John lays back and laughs so loud and so hard that the bed begins to shake.
Henry begins gasping for air and says, “Somebody find the box.”
Tony and Tina come running into the house as the power goes out. They head for the boys’ room and without knocking walk into a wild scene. They can barely make out the boys’ shapes in the darkness but can hear the gasping and laughing.
“Get the box,” yells Michael.
John, with a sweeping grasp, reaches across the bed and finds the missing box. He bangs the lid shut and lets out a sigh of relief.
Just then they hear the front door bang open and Grandma Shaw appears at the bedroom door with her lantern swinging at her side. Eerie shadows are cast about the room as she takes in the boys, and then sees Tony and Tina standing off to the side with their mouths hanging open. “What is going on here?” she asks with stunned amusement.
Tina says, “I’m not sure Grandma, but I think the magic box might have something to do with it.
Tony sighs and says, “I’ve heard enough about that ridiculous box. Hand it over boys.”
Henry jumps onto the bed and grabs the box. “But this is why we’re laughing,” he says. Then, before anyone can protest, he lifts the lid and defiantly stares at his folks. He needs to show them what it can do and figures this is his last chance.
Within seconds, all six of them are laughing. Henry has never seen his parents laugh like this. They are crying and hugging each other while simultaneously looking astonished at their own behavior. Grandma Shaw slides down to the floor and grabs her stomach as she doubles over giggling with glee. The boys laugh at the scene in front of them. Henry laughs too, but keeps one eye on the box and after a few more seconds slams it shut.
As Tony wipes his eyes he says, “I haven’t laughed that hard in years. That felt great.”
Tina looks absolutely joyful and smiles at her husband and her boys as she wipes her eyes. “I’m crying from laughing so hard.”
Grandma Shaw is still holding her stomach and finally gets up enough strength to say, “Henry, that is quite a box.”
The boys all climb onto the bed and wait expectantly for their dad to make the next move.
Tony clears his throat and announces with an unexpected lightheartedness, “I have an idea. Let’s start a fire in the fireplace, roast a few marshmallows and pull out the Scrabble board.”
Tina looks at her husband with a wide smile and says, “Aye, aye captain, marshmallows and skewers coming right up.”
Grandma Shaw glides into the family room, plops herself down on the couch and places the lantern on the table next to her. She is positively glowing from the events of this strange, magical night.
The boys run out to the garage to drag in some firewood. It isn’t long before John has coaxed the fire into a blazing light source.
After they have their fill of marshmallows and wash the sticky goo off their fingers, it’s time to play Scrabble. Tina takes an early lead thanks to the spelling bee prowess she developed as a girl, but Henry is the sleeper of the match. On his very last play, he trumps them all with a seven tile word that earns him a bonus of 50 points. His word mastery is not lost on his admiring family.
As they sit in the dark and talk, the firelight flickers across their faces. Tina shares a story from when she and Tony were dating that involves a power outage, her parents coming home early and her father chasing Tony down the street. It’s a hilarious story that has Tony, Tina and Grandma Shaw laughing from the memory. As the embers slowly die and the room begins to darken, Tony clears his throat and says, “Boys, I know I’m not a perfect dad and I know I’m too hard on you sometimes, but I love you guys more than you’ll ever know.”
Tina smiles at each of her boys, stands up slowly and says, “I have an announcement. This night has taught us a great lesson. We really aren’t having enough fun around here. Yes, the chores have to get done and we all need to be responsible, but laughter is important too. I suggest we set aside every Friday evening as family night. We’ll play games, eat pizza and talk. There will be no chores, well at least not many, and no fighting.”
Tony says, “Tina, I agree with everything you just said, but I would like to add one thing. Let’s put the box on the mantle as a reminder of what we learned tonight. I may get a little lock just so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. I don’t think we’ll be needing its special powers anymore.”
Everyone happily agrees to the new plan and starts saying their goodnights. Grandma Shaw has already curled up on the couch and fallen asleep. Tina gets a comforter and covers her up for the night.
Tony takes the lantern and follows each boy to his room. When he gets to Henry’s room he lingers while his youngest climbs under the covers. “Son, I owe you an apology. I was angry at you earlier today, but I didn’t take the time to listen to what you had to say. I promise to do a better job of listening. I love your artwork and your creative ideas and I hope you keep it up in the future. You have to do your chores and keep up with your school work, but I want you to be yourself. I’m not much of an artist; in fact, I’m pretty awful at drawing. You’ll have to show me, sometime, how you come up with some of your ideas.” He pauses, “I guess I’m just trying to say that I love you a bunch just the way you are.”
Henry smiles at his dad and reaches up for a big hug. “Goodnight dad, I love you a bunch too...just the way you are.”
As his dad chuckles and retreats down the hall, Henry reaches his hands under his pillow and gives a grateful squeeze to the soft velvet bag that once held a perfectly magical box.
The mantle slowly fills. The box takes center stage and Grandma Shaw contributes her lantern as a memorial to their magical night. Tina has a plaque engraved with the slogan, give thanks - joy is all around. The family begins their Friday night gatherings the very next week and also starts planning a fun vacation for later in the summer. The canoeing photo is taken on that trip: a lazy, meandering jaunt down the Little Miami River in Ohio.
It’s a rare night when all the stars align and something magical takes place. The goodness and joy in people is always there but sometimes needs a little dusting off. A small magic box, a dash of pixie dust and a bolt of lightening can bring a sparkle and shine into the darkest corners. Love and laughter, the very things we need, are never far behind.