Once Upon a Rookie Night

I’ve written before about Friday nights in our family, a.k.a. Rookie Night, the evening we look forward to all week.

Rookie Night entails dinner (burgers, pizza, BBQ, and Chick-Fil-A are favorites), maybe a trip to the bookstore or quick grocery run, and a movie at home. Caroline picks the movie, which is often Lego-related or High School Musical. The usual bedtime curfew is not enforced. And sometimes, when Phil’s up to it, he and Caroline sleep on the living room floor under a tent rigged from a parachute thrown over the kitchen chairs and anchored with chip clips. I retire to an actual bed.

That’s Rookie Night.

It sounds kind of ridiculous, but Rookie Night is tradition. Sometimes Rookie Night is sacred.

One Rookie Night we went to Five Guys and ordered our usual fare. Five Guys is quick, the food is good, and the blaring classic rock takes me back to roller rink glory days of yore. Munching on peanuts while waiting for our food, I noticed when a voice rang out from the radio, “Josie’s on a vacation far away . . .” It’s one of those songs from the 80s that everyone instantly recognizes but only knows the words to the chorus.

At the chorus, the atmosphere in the restaurant shifted, as if we’d all been waiting for it. When the voice from the speakers sang, “I don’t wanna lose your love,” all the Five Guys workers sang: Tonight. I looked up and waited for the next line, “I just wanna use your love,” and fry cooks and grill cooks and condiment girls in hairnets belted out, Tonight.

This spontaneous breakout in song was kind of magical, like the traffic scene at the beginning of La La Land but with more grease in the air. When the chorus rolled around again, I was ready to sing along—Tonight—and caught the eye of the guy at the cash register. He flashed a sheepish grin and turned back to the register, embarrassed to be caught singing or embarrassed to be sung with. Probably both.

By the song’s end, you might recall, the chorus repeats, like, a dozen times. But we—the mustard slingers and bun toasters and potato choppers and me—were still singing along to the refrain: Tonight.

So, this song about a guy trying to cheat on a girl named Josie while she’s on vacation became a surprise sing-along, a sort of call and response. Strangely, it reminded me of when a priest prays a request and the congregation answers, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Although I wasn’t thinking about the meaning of the word “tonight” at the time, repeating it was like an acknowledgement of the present, gratitude for the presence of each other—the three of us celebrating Rookie Night and the people preparing the food.


Often, when I pick up Caroline from school I ask, “What’s the best part of your day so far?” Her answer is usually recess-related. My favorite response, though, is when she grins and says: “Right now.” Because that’s just how I feel on Friday evening.

What’s my favorite part of the week so far?

Sing it with me: Tonight.



Hey, there – thanks for reading! It means a lot. If you have friends who might like this, share it with them. -Em