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For many years we had lived in a very small apartment, with the two most distant rooms being the only bathroom at one end and what we called the “back room’ at the other.” We named it that, not necessarily because it was so far back in the house, but more because it had alternately been a shared bedroom for two of my oldest sons, a spare bedroom, our son’s room, a playroom, a catch-all room and lastly our two youngest shared it. It had never gained a solid, identifiable name like “Kaleigh’s Room” or “Messy Porch”. And, even at the other end of that puny house, it was still close enough to the bathroom that one was not spared the fumes of another job well done.

I’m trying to give you some sense of the claustrophobia we experienced on a daily basis, with meal times suffering more than any other. Our kitchen contained all of our necessities except for a dishwasher and elbow room. Never mind trying to cram five people around a four-person tabletop covered with hot dishes and glasses of liquid demanding to be tossed to the floor. So we had given in and chosen to take our meals in the less comfortable but far more spacious (yet carpeted — which added another layer to the ‘liquid on the floor’ challenge) living room.

The usefulness of the coffee table we had as a part of our furnishings became less apparent as more and larger children roamed the apartment. Back then though, it served its purpose as a dinner table for my older boys.

On an evening of spaghetti and garlic bread, Lori and I left the living room to refill plates. When we returned, I was amazed by the words I said, and to this day have to tell the whole story just to get anyone to believe me. My oldest son Aaron was sitting back on the sofa and his feet were propped up; only unbuckling his belt would have made the picture more complete.

But how and where he had his feet propped up gave me the most concern. In my most fatherly voice — and trying my best not to laugh as hard as I could — I told him, “Get your feet off the Parmesan cheese.”

I don’t know that I’ll ever string all those words together in that order ever again.

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