My son is five and one quarter. If I round up or down he will smell it immediately and hunt me down after school and pepper me with corrections and a bowl full of scowls. He is five and one quarter and one of the most magnificent creatures I have ever met. My son is a whirling dervish of interesting moments and insane reflections. He sees things I cannot and says things I would not. His memory is that of a full-grown elephant and his happiness is a pure, white cloud of awesome.
I say this not in a bragging, annoying motherly way but in a purely frank, observational way. It’s not that I haven’t thought this before but now I can step back and take it all in. Now I sleep through the night. Now I can have conversations with him and find out what he needs, wants and desires. Now I get it.
Yesterday, we were driving back from a picture postcard weekend in Santa Barbara with friends who were generous enough to invite us to crash their two-week rental beach house of beauty. As we curled along the 101 freeway, gazing at a perfect Pacific Ocean, Otto noticed that half the moon was showing even though the sun was still shining.
“Why can we see the moon during the day?”
My brain was driving, my mouth was on hold and I passed the ball to my husband who pulled out his ladder-high I.Q. and covered the car with correct answers and interested factoids. It was a lot of orbiting and travelling and timing.
And me? I continued driving and flipping inane subjects and worries in my head like an Olympic gymnast in a sausage casing leotard. What should we have for dinner? Did I buy stuff for Otto’s snack bag tomorrow? Why did I eat half a bag of potato chips while wearing a bikini? When is my period due? Is sunscreen toxic? When is the best time to wax? And why can’t the 70’s bush be back in Vogue?
As my boys continued discussing space and taking a verbal trip to the moon Otto decided it was his turn to share his knowledge of planetary happenings.
“Hey guys, you know that we can only see half the moon right now because the other half is covered by space clouds.”
That’s when I woke up from my mental list making and tuned into my backseat NOVA episode. Space dust? Half-covered? I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? I flunked astronomy my freshman year of college because it was at 8 a.m. three days a week and the professor was as interesting as dryer lint. I will also add to that that I was the LEAST focused freshman at a PAC Ten school with my own apartment, crazy roommates and a tendency to trip over a new boy crush every twelve feet. I was young and stupid and uninterested in anything out of arms length of my orbit or my mini fridge, most certainly planets in other galaxies and the space dust that loved them.
I never really took the time to notice when the moon was half covered or fully clothed. Saturn had rings and Uranus was not just a planet, it was a punch line.
Why didn’t I get my shit together and stick it all in a shiny new Trapper Keeper? Why didn’t I care about the Milky Way or Quasars or comets and why didn’t I pay attention in class and take notes and take notice?
This may not sound like a MENSA moment to you but my child saw something so simple and wanted to learn about it and talk about it. It was the moon, real and raw and right in front of him. It was not Angry Birds or Spider Man, The Movie or viral cat videos that truly represent all that is wrong in a society ruled by Internet-generated creepy laugh riot moments and people with social circles in the shape of a hypotenuse.
I thought about space clouds all last night and first thing this morning and who I was then and who I am now. If only I had taken a little bit of time out of my busy schedule of happy hour-hopping and sleeping late and sun-tanning and lip glossing and bothered to listen to a lecture and look up in the sky than maybe, I could have been a better parent to my Curious George in my jungle. Maybe I could have been part of the discussion of space particles and lunar landings and maybe, I could have answered the simple question as to why we earthlings can see the moon on our way home from the sun.