Mom pulls ace out of her sleeve

Are We There Yet? • LORI CLINCH

Back in the day, I was keen as a card shark. I’d set a deck on the kitchen counter, add another to it and say to my little dears, “How many deck of cards does this make?”

“Two, Mommy!”

“That’s right, you precious little children. You’re smart, and I’m smart and all is well. Now what say we break into a box of Ding-Dongs and celebrate our full house!”

Good times.

But it wasn’t long before we loaded the kids’ backpacks with rulers and tablets, tossed in bright shiny new protractors and sent them off to the world of education.

They’d return with homework, and we’d pencil it out together. We’d add cute little numbers, subtract single digits and the kids still thought their mommy was playing with a full deck.

I had a good hand right up until they brought home long division, pronouns and in-depth studies on protozoa.

I was done dealing after that! Suddenly I made myself busy and was off doing way too much to help and encouraging them to seek the wisdom of dear old dad.

“How are you with the metric system?” they called from the kitchen table one night.

“Oh, that’s a great place,” I responded from my hiding place. “lost 15 pounds there after I had your younger brother.”

“Wasn’t that the Nutrisystem?” I heard one child whisper to the other. Then they surely rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and left me alone.

Needless to say, they don’t bet the house on my wisdom nowadays. I went from playing with a full deck to folding before the cards are dealt. They feel the need to explain things to me and when all else fails, they pat me on the back and say, “It’s okay, you can sit this one out.”

Sometimes they seem to be pondering how I can deal at all.

Things have really become complex since we sent the eldest off to college. He’s learning about our planet and culture and perhaps one or two things that he shouldn’t know.

He’s studied the human psyche, atmospheric pressure, and gained a complete knowledge of chronicity.

Whatever the heck that means.

On a recent family outing, Vernon sat behind the wheel of the family sedan as his father pumped gas and I emptied the car of trash and debris. I was making my second trek to the refuse containers when I heard Vernon ask Lawrence, our third and ever-sowise son, “So, then why do you think the moon looks larger on the horizon than it does in the sky?”

“I don’t know,” replied Lawrence, “because it’s further away once it’s up in the sky?”

“Do you really think it’s farther away from Earth when it’s up in the sky than it is on the horizon?” Vernon asked. And then he turned to look at his brother, making it obvious that he was in the know and although his newfound wisdom had dug a hole into his nest egg at astronomical proportions, at least it was useful in fun-filled debates.

“I don’t know,” replied Lawrence and with that, I grabbed another handful of trash and quickly ran back to the bins where wouldn’t get sucked into the conversation and be made to feel inadequate with my astronomical knowledge.

“It’s called the lunar illusion, Lawrence.” I heard Vernon explain from my spot by the refuse containers, and although he didn’t have a pointer and a dry erase board to properly illustrate his lesson, he was teaching nonetheless.

“You see, when the moon is on the horizon, we have a point of reference to compare it to, whereas when it’s in the sky, there is no surrounding frame of reference, and it looks smaller to us and further away even though it’s the same distance from the Earth.” He then completed his lecture series like any older brother does by concluding with a simple, “Duh!”

Feeling that it was safe to rejoin the group, I climbed into the car and Vernon looked to me and again posed the question, “Hey, Mom, why do you think the moon looks larger on the horizon than it does in the sky?”

I smiled, held my head high and simply repeated Vernon’s explanation word for word. “See Lawrence,” Vernon scoffed at the completion of my dissertation, “even Mom knows about the lunar illusion.”

I may not be playing with a full deck but I do know when to shoot the moon!

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at www.loriclinch. com.