Give up on all expectations.

Last Sunday, I helped my sons, Zane and Aidan, put together a jigsaw puzzle depicting the solar system.  As usual, I assembled the border pieces while the boys pieced the planets together one at a time.  Aidan worked diligently on Jupiter, while Zane raced through the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and the Asteroid Belt.  Within an hour he had gotten as far as Neptune, and announced that he was done.

“What about Pluto?” I asked.

“There’s no planet named Pluto.”  He said.  And my fourth grader was right. Both the jigsaw puzzle and I were wrong.  Those last tiniest pieces belonged to Pluto, which had at one time been the ninth planet in the solar system.  Sometime after I had completed my one course in astronomy, other objects got discovered in the solar system, like Eris, a disc shaped rock in the Kuiper belt that claimed to be 27% bigger than Pluto.

On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union announced that Pluto was no longer a planet but had been subcategorized to Dwarf Planet, along with Eris and Ceres, a planetoid in the Asteroid Belt.

Now, I have nothing against these two orbiting objects, but what I disliked is what they did to poor Pluto.  They belittled Pluto’s eccentric orbit, which sometimes brings it closer to earth than Neptune. 

Think about being Pluto for a second, there you are a full classed planet for seventy-five years, only to get a letter telling you that size indeed does matter.

Why do I care?   I grew up with the Mnemon: Mary’s Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights---Proposing.  Now, no one knows why John is staying up,  leaving his nocturnal activities to the imagination of my all-too-imaginative eight year old.  I can compromise, and fit in Ceres and Eris.  Mary’s Violet Eyes Can Make John Stay Up Nights Eagerly Proposing.  In this age of political correctness, I intended to teach my children that even rock and ice objects can be planets too.

The universe always uses coincidence to humble me.

On the following Saturday, there were soccer tryouts in the park near my house.  Hadn’t had enough, what with autumn soccer league, cross country track, winter basketball, early spring t-ball and spring baseball. No, my kids needed good reason for getting mediocre grades, and that reason would have to be a busy sports schedule.

So I get the boys up early, and they are excited to get their cleats and shin guards on, and they practically drag me down the field.  And there I am feeling out of place, as twenty boys with twenty parents all kick balls around the grass, and me thinking that Starbuck’s would be a lot more fun at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning.

Did I mention that I am old and gay?  As a man in his mid fifties, I always feel spent watching the thirty-something parents play tackle with their kids.  And it’s always awkward when one of these soccer dads walks up to me and asks me what the little woman is doing while I am watching the game.

So I stood on the sideline and tried to look inconspicuous.  This lasted for about half an hour, until a jock standing next to me said, “This going great, eh?” I could tell by the accent thathe spoke English well, but as a second language, and I figured that I would have nothing in common with the guy, other than the fact that we were both up on a Saturday morning watching our sons kick a black and white ball across the lawn.  I nodded, not to enthusiastically, not really wanting him to mistake my answer for enthusiasm about starting a conversation. “Which kid is yours?” he persevered.

I pointed out the only black child on the field,  and, as I am not black, I figured that the guy would then know that I was not a regular kind of Dad, but, instead he said, “That’s great. I am no the only Adopted Father here?”


“Yes, usually my husband takes them to these things, but he had a conference and—“ wait.  This guy was not only adoptive, but gay as well?  And here I had been in stereotype city, just wanting to feel marginalized, when suddenly, I had a quorum.  So I asked if he had adopted here, or internationally, and he said, “Well, when my husband and I moved from France to California, we decided to adopt American.”

“What brought you to America?”

“I am a professor of Astronomy.”  Again, I got caught short, because there I was ready to become best buddies with this guy, but he may have betrayed me on my one cosmic issue. 

So I jumped in with, “You’re not one of those guys who voted Pluto out of the club, are you?”

He smiled and said, “Both of them.”


“You see, Pluto is not the planet we think it is. When we finally got a good look at it, we found out, that actually Pluto has a moon, Charon, and they are locked in an orbit together, which we could not see until now. In fact, Pluto has no barycenter.  In fact, Pluto isn’t merely a dwarf planet, but a binary dwarf planet.”

The lesson?  Never hold on to stubborn opinions.  Just when you think the straight guy next to you will never understand what you are doing, he tells you that the planetoid that you have been defending for the past few years is leading a double life.