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April 15, 2024

Oort Cloud Oddities: Peevil Knievel

By Alexandra Queen

Watch closely and you will see this truism: Little girls grow up to become women. Little boys grow up to become taller, stronger little boys.

A case in point: the family was spending some time together this past weekend. While the rest of us chatted, my dad was reading to my daughter from her new favorite book. The conversation was about kids in the neighborhood. The book was about space flight.

"Look, Lillian," we could hear my dad in the background. "Kennedy Space Center is where the space shuttle lives. It's also a national wildlife refuge, where lots of endangered species live, like manatees, whooping cranes and the space program. Can you say 'budget cuts'?"

I was busy trying to tell my mother and my husband, John, about a club that one of my neighbors found out her boys have joined. "They said it was the 'Far Pee Club'. When she asked what that was, they told her that in order to make it in, you have to be able to hit the toilet from a certain distance."

"Boys will be boys," my mother rolled her eyes. "Maybe you should write a series of children's books about it. 'The Babysitters Club' was such a successful little franchise."

"Kids these days," John scoffed. "If they want to do it right, they need to get their friends to lay down in front of the toilet in a row, then see who can make it over them into the toilet. Now that takes skill!"

"Okay, Peevil Knievel," I shook my head.

"You had some strange friends growing up, John," my mother observed.

"Nah," he said. "Just some gullible ones."

Meanwhile, my father could still be heard. "See the clouds of superheated steam coming off the launch pad as the shuttle goes into the sky? They go rolling through the wildlife refuge. Every time the shuttle launches, there is one less endangered species in the reserve. Isn't that nice? After every launch, the Mission Control cafeteria serves manatee minestrone as the soup of the day. See the picture? The launch tower gets flooded with water to keep it cool. Whooping cranes do not get flooded with water, but that's okay; they taste better when they're crispy."

My mother looked over at him with pursed lips. "What are you reading, Bernie?"

"Lillian's space book. Look, it says here that astronauts can keep food inside their helmets to snack on during spacewalks. It also says that after that horrible sizzling fajita accident in '79, nine out of ten astronauts prefer freeze dried foods to scalding liquids and sear-temperature meats."

"I hear they used to supply our astronauts with gourmet meals, but there were too many complaints about working with fresh, live Maine lobsters in the helmet," John nodded.

"Isn't it time to go play outside?" my mother asked. I think she was referring to Lillian.

"Ooo, look, Lillian. Boom! The space shuttle breaks the sound barrier when it comes in for a landing! See the little man in Mission Control? He's saying, 'Endeavour, this is Houston. You have broken the sound barrier. Be advised that the cost for replacing it will be deducted from your paychecks.'"

"I think Lillian wants to play in the pool," my mother said in a tone that meant the decision had already been made.

John and my father took Lillian out to play in the water while I stayed to help my mother finish up in the kitchen. "I'm so glad I had a daughter," I sighed as we walked out back to join them. My daughter was picking flowers from the patio and passing them around. "Girls are so much more couth than boys."

My mother nodded agreement, and we smiled as we watched Lillian hand a flower to Grandpa and tuck it in his hat. She picked a flower for Daddy and put it in his shirt pocket. She picked a flower for herself and then paused, stymied. Without bathing suit or diaper, my little naturalist found herself without anywhere to tuck her flower. Thoughtfully, she reached around behind her and began to wedge the stem in what I'm sure seemed to her to be a fairly convenient spot.

"LILLIAN!" I said, shouting to be heard over the laughter from my husband and my father. "Try tucking the flower behind your ear instead."

"You were saying?" my mother asked dryly.

"She's John's daughter."

"Come on, Lillian," smiled my father. "Let's play 'Cape Canaveral clean up'. I'll get the skimmer, you pretend the bugs floating on the water are sea turtles after shuttle liftoff."

Most little girls grow up to be mature women. And maybe the men in my family are the only ones who grew up to be extra tall fourth graders. But as long as my daughter doesn't grow up to become the next Peevil Knievel, I wouldn't have my family any other way.

This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-06-26
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