It's been cold this week. In fact, it's been cold enough to crank up the good-times stove.
If I could get away with writing just two sentences this week, I'd stop now and leave you hanging.
In my family, we like to mention the good-times stove among ourselves, loud enough for bystanders to hear, but matter-of-factly, as if everybody knows about the good-times stove and has one of their own.
For example, if it's a chilly night and we're at the ballpark sitting on metal bleachers, one of the children might say, "Sure wish we had the good-times stove right now."
Or one of them might interrupt a conversation to ask, "Hey Dad, think we could fire up the good-times stove tonight?"
Or my youngest son, who's seen every "Star Wars" movie six times, might blurt, "To light the good-times stove I cannot wait."
Then we continue doing whatever we were doing and talking about whatever we were talking about. And invariably one of those bystanders says, "Wait a minute. What the heck's a good-times stove? And why don't I have one?"
Sometimes we can't help but reply, "You mean no one's ever told you about the good-times stove?"
When pressed for an explanation, we tend to say cryptic things like, "Well, it's a magic stove that makes everybody happy."
Is it legal? "Oh sure. I mean, I think so. Not sure about Alabama."
I'll let you in on a secret: the good-times stove is a simple wood-burning stove. It's in the kitchen of our home, which we've owned since late summer.
We first noticed it when our Realtor was showing us the house. The owners, who'd spent the first 25 of their retirement years there, were sitting in the kitchen while we looked around.
My wife saw the stove in the corner and asked if they used it to heat the house.
The man had a big smile and a twinkle in his eye, kind of like Santa Claus without the beard. "Sometimes we use it for heat," he said. "But mostly we just use it to have a good time."
To have a good time.
We laughed. Later, we told our children and they laughed. We told our friends and they laughed.
But then we bought the house and moved in, and we started addressing the simple wood-burning stove as the good-times stove.
At first, it was an inside joke. But then one day when the temperature dropped below 50 degrees one of the kids complained about the miserably cold weather and then another kid got the twinkle in his eye and said, "Hey! Let's light the good-times stove!"
That's pretty much what happened this week. Less than a week before spring break, it's freezing cold outside and we're complaining and then somebody remembers what we've got.
We've got the good-times stove. And life's pretty great when you've got one of those.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org