Tyler and Bryce are into outer space. The hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this July reached them, as it seems to have reached so many. But unlike many adults, whose attention spans seem as short or shorter than kids’ nowadays, my grandsons are still excited about dressing up as astronauts this Halloween.
I hope the moon is visible on Oct. 31. It should be a waxing crescent at that point. Next year, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, the great fall exercise in neighborly largesse will unfold under a full moon.
“Papa Ken, is there anything bad on the moon?” Bryce asks one day in the car. “No,” I said, “except there’s no air in outer space. That’s why astronauts wear those suits, which have oxygen so they can breathe.”
Airless space seemed to catch them by surprise. Actually, the only thing bad about the moon is that we don’t have a functioning base up there yet, which would greatly facilitate our plans to send humans to Mars. I thought that might be TMI, however, at this point.
But they are hungry to learn. Already two months into kindergarten, their minds are expanding exponentially. I pick them up one day a week, and they explode like rocket ships out the door, throwing themselves into my arms. Fortunately, they’re in separate classrooms, so they don’t reach me at the same moment.
A few weeks back, they moved into separate bedrooms at their new house. Tyler says it’s a lot quieter “with Bryce not talking to me all the time.” Separation and growing older has intensified sibling rivalry. A new phase to navigate. As we leave school, the crossing guard nods and says, “I’ve got twins at home. Same thing.”
They suffer from animal envy. Tyler mentions a recent lesson on chimpanzees. “They’re a kind of monkey,” he says, “and I know about monkeys because I want to be a monkey.” Bryce adds, “When I grow up, I want to be a kitty cat.”
These days, every playground structure turns into a firehouse or kitty house or monkey house. Bryce gives me a tour beneath the school’s new playset. “This is the kitchen, this is the dining room, this is the living room, this is the … the dance room,” and the one with the low ceiling is “the tornado room.” Tyler is in the “kitchen” taking inventory for tomorrow’s breakfast: “bananas, banana bread, chocolate-covered bananas and banana cereal — shaped like monkeys.”
Bryce gives me a picture he drew in school and asks, “Do you still have them on the wall in your bedroom?” Of course. “I hope you keep them so something in your room reminds you of us.” Every morning, in fact, when I wake up. Every evening when I go to bed.
Back at their house, I ask if they want something to drink. Tyler says, “Water is the only thing I trust.” We’re curled on the couch watching Curious George. Each episode ends with an educational video clip. Two musicians reminisce about how they got started. “If you find something to do that you love,” one says, “go for it.” I ask the boys what they love.
“I love you, Papa Ken,” Tyler says, “as much as a gallon of water.”
Bryce points to the book I read to them earlier and says, “I love you as much as all these stars.” The book is titled, “A hundred billion trillion stars.” It’s a book about immense numbers — in the universe and on Earth — which blew their minds. Blew mine too.
We want their minds blown wide because their generation will determine the planet’s future, whether they’ll be wearing spacesuits in some distant planetary colony — and maybe even on Earth.
Last week, the three of us walked home from a nearby park and the three-quarter moon was visible overhead. “It’s almost full!” Bryce announced happily, and wondered why it was “blurry” behind a bank of wispy fall clouds.
Tyler ponders the sky for a moment and says, “The moon is the sun of the night.”
After regaining my composure, I respond, “That’s really good, Tyler, really good,” while wondering why it never occurred to me. So obvious and so poetic. Surely someone over the span of humankind thought this before, but I was 99 and 99/100ths percent sure he hadn’t heard it from anyone else — and just as sure no one else ever distilled that thought on the eve of their 6th birthday. Googling that line later revealed no references. In fact, the browser kept changing “sun” to “son.”
Human beings are a marvel, especially the young ones, so backward and so forward. Alternately diabolical and angelic, they fight like cats, then overflow with love. Pair-a-dox twins. Spending time with them in the holy ordinary is a lot of give and a lot of get. Together, we inhabit the living room, the dance room, and, yes, even the tornado room in the split-level house of life, beneath the moon and under the sun. Our goal is to inspire them, then they turn around and inspire us. Darkness gives way to dawn multiple times through each revolution of the Earth.
I’m copyrighting it all here, Tyler, if you’re reading this someday in the distant future, maybe while crafting a collection of poems for publication. “The moon is the sun of the night” would make a great book title. And it’s all yours.
In the meantime, I know 100 percent for certain that these two 6-year-olds are the sun and moon of all my days and nights.
Happy birthday, boys. Keep learning. Keep thinking.
And keep defying gravity.