Five forks, five knives and five spoons, counted out and placed on the stack of plates in a jumble of clinks and clunks. Five paper napkins follow, each to be folded in half and set on the dining room table to the left of each plate and under each fork.
I realize something is wrong while folding the first napkin. I don't need it. Four will be enough. Four napkins, four forks, knives and spoons. Four plates. Only four. There is an extra plate.
For the last month, there were five mouths to feed. Five is too many to seat at the small table in the breakfast nook, which is why the dining room table is still set for service. Table pads and black tablecloth ready for five plates and accompanying silverware, along with bowls and trays and serving utensils, glasses and drinks and a game of cards afterward.
Four fit in the breakfast nook. It's cozier for four and easier than carrying things out to the dining room. Four is an easier number, in general. Easier for setting the table, easier for meal planning, easier for clean up. Four is simpler. Four is quieter and quicker.
Four still means conversation and games, laughter and delicious meals. Four can be tremendously infuriating or joyously enlightening. There is absolutely nothing wrong with four, with the single exception that it isn't five.
The days of five are numbered. Holiday breaks and summers off from college are now on the endangered species list. At least we have four, for now.