Palindromes and Dusty Animals

DSCF9094I have been back at work for three days, and I think I am fairly well adjusted to museum and National Park Service life once more. Walking around town, I have crossed paths with many people who have welcomed me back to the working world.

It has been pleasantly surprising to discover that in our absence many people were aware there was a shutdown, that there was a national park site in Lowell, and that park rangers were good people that they missed having around.

As I was leaving the Boott Cotton Mill Museum the other day, a large, somewhat intimidating man (for me, at least) was approaching me from the opposite direction.

I smiled at him, and he called out “Thank gahd you guys ah back!”

I would like to also state for the virtual record that I am thrilled to be able to write about something unrelated to politics and paychecks—mathematics and childhood memories.

During the shutdown, I went through many of my cherished possessions from childhood, most of which have been collecting dust for many years. Tonight, my dad came up to Lowell for dinner and brought with him three trash bags full of stuffed animals in various states of dusty and decay.

I sat them down on my floor and coffee table in a lineup of sorts. Many were covered in layers of dust. Some were missing noses and eyes. The really well-loved ones were stretched at the seams.

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I wondered what they all thought, sitting in a foreign space. My dad suggested that were likely quite surprised to have been taken from their spots on top of my bureau in my childhood bedroom.

For me, stuffed animals were always real and always experienced emotion. I knew that they lived entire, sentient lives when I went to sleep at night and that they came alive in ways I would never witness any time I left my room, day or night.

What will happen to Snoopy with his purple leotard and tutu and nose that is falling off if I do not keep him? I am not sure I could forgive myself were I to send him to the landfill after he gave me his love so very loyally for so many years.

I took a pin off of one my teddy bears and worried that he would feel rejected and naked without it, like he was missing something?

Would they all miss each other or were they longing for an adventure, a change of scenery with new faces and friends?

Before the dusty lineup and reminiscing began, my dad and I went out to dinner. No sooner had we arrived at the restaurant but he discovered that he could not find the keys he had used to lock the outer gate to my apartment. Anxiety and distrust for what might happen should someone with ill intentions discover the keys won out, so we drove back to my apartment, found the keys on the ground where they had fallen when my dad got into the driver’s side of the car, got back into the car, and returned to the restaurant.

We sat back down at exactly 6:06pm.

Food and drink were consumed and enjoyed. When the bill arrived, I noticed that the tip my dad left was exactly $6.06. Being that we were related, I did not hesitate to mention the connection and the fact that I loved number palindromes (i.e., he would not think I was crazy). One of my personal favorites is 10:01 because it is a palindrome in shape and number.

My dad proceeded to tell me about a math course he has been studying about ways to teach math to children that are less apt to stunt them emotionally or intelligently.

He then showed me a game he had been playing with kids he tutors at an elementary school near him that shows how adding a number with their palindrome will eventually (with nearly all numbers) lead to a new palindrome.

It was AWESOME! I could imagine being a kid and enjoying math were someone like my dad to come along.

Unfortunately, it was not until high school that I had a geometry teacher who encouraged me and helped me to think that I might not be a complete idiot when it came to mathematics.

In the end, I still do not feel a kinship with math, but I do love numbers, and I do love my dad.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening, one of many I have been able to experience since returning to Massachusetts.

Life near my parents is a gift I was not anticipating. We can share a meal here and a walk in the woods there, homemade soup, dusty, stuffed animals, and shared memories.

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