Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Falling stars

I'm up but hardly awake yet. I am smiling because of a message I received from my sister this morning. She wanted to know about falling stars. She saw one streaking across the sky last night, a burning arc of fire, and thought about where they come from, so she emailed and asked me about it.

It seems my family always comes to me for answers to their questions. My mother calls me a walking encyclopedia. When I lived back in Ohio I seldom saw any of them except at family dinners during the holidays, a command performance that I usually left early or failed to attend because I worked nights, 3-11. I felt like an encyclopedia or some other book, like the PDR or a big dictionary, left on the shelf to grow dusty and brittle with time until someone had a question they wanted answered. Down from the shelf, showering them with dust and bits of air borne debris that lodged between the fragile pages crumbling around the edges, to answer their questions and be placed dutifully back on the shelf until the next time. I had a function. I responded to queries with knowledge. I had little else they wanted, or so it seemed, except to Beanie. She took the time to visit me and her boys called me to help with homework or just to come over to watch a movie. We ate meals together. I read books to the boys with them perched in my lap or sitting beside me as they grew older and taller -- and heavier. Beanie and the boys came to my house to visit or talk or when the boys stayed with me during the summer and I played math games with them on the computer, games that rewarded them with fireworks, bells and whistles when they go the answers right. And the boys asked me questions, like: why does a star fall and does another star replace it when it falls?

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I thought he should teach math at one of the local colleges one or two nights a week? I didn't understand why he asked me, but I told him what I would tell anyone contemplating such a decision. "If you think it's something you would like to do and would be good at and it would make you happy, then you should." His question was like a falling star, a brief tracery of light in the darkness. I asked him why he asked me and he told me it was because he was making conversation.

I asked Beanie last night why she thought he asked me. She said it was because he wanted my opinion.

Those are obvious answers but provide little illumination, kind of like a falling star even on the blackest night when the moon is a silver sickle of reflected light.

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