Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cells and Gravity

PBS's Sid may be the definitive science kid, but he'd better take note of the competition. Whatever knowledge the first-grade teacher is imparting to her students in a little Kansas school, Sooby is paying attention, and, apparently, loving every minute.  She also found several occasions to share her newfound knowledge with me on her most recent visit.

Take, for instance, the biological expertise apparent in her definition of cells and her description of of their purpose.  "Cells," she informs me, "are little bags of life that, when they are dying, get pushed into hair holes and make your hair grow."

"Alrighty then," I think. I am still pondering the metaphor of the "little bags" when she turns to physics and the topic of gravity.  "Gravity is making my stomach feel heavy," she says, whereupon she throws herself across Pa-pa's exercise ball and proceeds to wallow around the bedroom floor.  "There," she tells me as she dismounts.  "That feels better."

Although I have to laugh at the way a six-year-old ingests science concepts and makes her own kind of sense out of them, I also am somewhat impressed that, at age six and a half, her understanding of them is--on a very basic level--right. Cells contain the material of life.  Hair is composed of dead cells. Gravity makes things feel heavy.  In a world that runs on computer technology and has put men on the moon, that is a start.

Taking in a Happy Meal on the last day of their visit, the kids were delighted to get toys promoting the movie Mr. Peabody and Sherman.  Of course, Mr. Peabody, the smartest dog in the world, dates back to my own childhood days, when he and Sherman took a trip in their time machine every week on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

I marvel at the advances made by science since the 1960s. There is so much more for the kids these days to wrap their heads around. To have experienced so much rapid change myself is almost like a form of time travel.  Even George and Jane Jetson don't seem that far-fetched anymore.

I am thankful that those little bags of life of mine have continued to meiose or mitose like they are supposed to early into my seventh decade on this earth. Because of that, I get to experience the singular wisdom of grandkids as they learn the underlying principles that make their world tick.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Beenie's Ambiguous Birthday

There is something about ambiguity that I love.  I am fascinated by those drawings you can look at one way and see a simple picture of, say, a clown eating an apple on a bench behind a circus tent.  Then, look a little longer or change the angle a bit, and some different part of your brain kicks in to show not a clown at all but a duck chasing a beach ball down Fifth Avenue.

Give me a Rorschach ink blot or a good Hawthorne story, and I will revel in the contemplation of multiple interpretations and alternate possibilities.  Or, simply, do what Beenie's mama and daddy did today:  Send me a photo of my grandson on his second birthday.  I will delight in not only the perfect, precious subject matter but also in the vastly different texts that accompany this single photo.

I first received the shot, snapped by Beenie's day care provider, in a text message from his mama.  "Birthday boy with a mouthful of birthday cookie," she writes.  A great caption, I thought, and very practical.  Otherwise, I might have spent the afternoon trying to figure out what that white thing on his mouth was and wondering if he had the mumps.

An hour or two later, the picture cropped up again, this time as a status update by son Teebo on my Facebook news feed.  Never one to waste words, Teebo opts for the less concrete, more interpretive caption: "Visionary."

Now, don't those two views pretty well reflect the gamut of parenthood?  On one hand, you are immersed in its physical necessities: you change diapers, wipe noses, and hold sticky little hands.  On the other, you look beyond the physical confines of toddler time and wonder about things like potential and possibility. Do we have a doctor here?  A computer programmer?  An artist?  First violin for the New York Philharmonic? Second baseman for the Cardinals?

Thanks, Mama and Daddy, for sharing this great pic of Beenie on his second birthday.  As for you, little guy, I hope you are having a great day.  It looks like the birthday cookie is a definite step in the right direction.

I will see you for your party this weekend.  Meanwhile, sleep tight tonight, and remember that Googie loves you a whole, whole bunch.

There is nothing ambiguous about that.