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We found this huge book on the Cosmos at Borders a few weeks ago. High atop a display of discount outer space books, Declan asked me to get the “Bero Galaxy book.” For those of you who, like me (before I had a space-obsessed child), would have no idea what that might mean – it’s a book with a picture of the Sombrero Galaxy on its cover. Filled with huge images taken by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, as well as various other spacecrafts, he was excited to see things he loves, like the Galilean moons of Jupiter, in such detail.
And he stunned me a bit by identifying not only the things I knew he knew, but by saying things like “oh, these are the train wrecks,” when I turned to the page that showed distant galaxies colliding with one another. He can also identify many planets and moons in our solar system by their surfaces – the volcanoes on Mars, the pock-marks of Mercury – and the long arms and glowing cores of several different galaxies. His father and I are confounded by this on pretty much a daily basis, and grateful to be learning that we are even tinier specks in the universe than we ever thought possible.
“That is a really good space book,” he told me confidently after we spent 10 minutes on the floor of the bookstore, flipping through and talking about the pictures.
His favorite thing to watch lately has been the Nova special The Elegant Universe, about string theory. I have watched this with him at least two or three times now and much flies over my head. Declan likes me to watch it with him and explains some of the basics to me: “It’s everything, mommy. It’s everything.”
A few days ago, a young pregnant woman flirted with Declan in the grocery line. He peered around the shopping cart at her, sweet and shy. She waved at him and said “Hi there! How old are you?”
This is a question people ask him all the time, but he doesn’t seem all that interested in answering or even knowing the answer.
I leaned over to him and said, “can you tell her how old you are? Do you know you are two? Can you say ‘I’m two?'”
He looked right at her and said “It’s an elegant universe.”
She looked at me curiously and I interpreted. “He said ‘it’s an elegant universe.'”
She looked pleased and surprised as she touched her belly.
“He has a lot of answers about the big things,” I offered. “Details like his age – not so much.”
“Who needs to know they’re two when they know that?” she said, then she leaned down and looked right at him. “I hope you keep thinking about the big things and the elegant universe for a long, long time. I hope you don’t forget them when you get older.”