It was bedlam in the formerly tranquil Simmons household. Voices were raised, fists pounded tables, Mr. Potato Head was torn asunder. I could see it on the evening news — our neighbor Mrs. Stein telling the world, “But they were such a nice family, even if they didn’t always mow their lawn or remember what day to put out the garbage or …”
What was the to-do about? What could stir such animosity?
“Pluto is too a planet!” yelled Jennifer.
“Is not!” I bellowed back.
Jennifer poured a glass of wine and stood by the window, staring defiantly into the night sky at Pluto. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was gazing at a streetlamp.
“The International Astronomical Union is the sole authority for classifying, naming and making things up about outer space,” I reminded her as I squished into our new wing chair. “These are very smart people, smart enough to figure out how to make a living from going to Star Trek conventions. So if they think that, after 76 years of placing the word planet on its business card, Pluto is, in fact, only an icy rock playing planet for Halloween, then case closed.”
Jennifer wasn’t buying into
what she considered an arbitrary new rule that a planet isn’t just something that’s round and orbits the sun — it must also be big enough to “clear its area” of any similar-sized objects.
“If that’s the case, your aunt Ruth could be a planet,” she sputtered. “She’s round, cold, and she cleared her area of everything long ago, including your uncle Danny, who ran off with the dog walker.”
Hearing that Pluto was planet non grata, our three-year-old, Quinn, removed the Pluto action figure from her Disney display. It made Jennifer even sadder.
“I wonder, if it had a more serious name, say, Sidney or Desmond, might its fate have been different?” she asked aloud.
“Look,” I said, shifting my weight around on the chair, hoping circulation would return to my legs. “As the sole authority for classifying, naming and making things up about our home, let’s use Pluto’s demotion to make a few changes around here, starting with this wing chair.”
“My grandmother left me that.”
“Sorry, but this does not fit the new definition of a chair.”
“What new definition?”
“The one I’m making up as I speak. From here on out, a chair isn’t just something that someone sits on. Otherwise, I’d be a chair if Quinn had her way. In my dictionary, a chair is something you want to sit on, preferably in front of a TV. It also needs to be ratty enough to chase everyone but me from its orbit. That’s a chair. Oh, and my father’s penchant for leaving diners with his pockets full of Sweet’N Low?
That’s now shopping and not, as your family refers to it, stealing.”
Through the window, I could see Quinn walking in the yard, holding a bag of okra.
“Bravo!” I shouted as I jumped to my feet. Quinn had redefined okra as a garden tool to be stored in the outdoor shed, thus guaranteeing that neither Jennifer nor I would ever find it and cook it for dinner.
Jennifer was still upset. And when she stews, all of her 83,543,291,732 brain cells are put on time and a half.
“Should we get rid of Quinn because she’s the shortest and hasn’t learned to clear her Polly Pocket dolls from her orbit or ours?” she asked. “What does this mean for anything that doesn’t quite fit the mold? What does this mean for Rhode Island? For doughnut holes? For Danny DeVito?”
Jennifer was looking at the larger picture, larger than the universe. “What does it say about a galaxy that changes the rules for convenience’ sake?”
I didn’t have an answer, other than to say, “Hey, wanna watch TV?”
In the end, Jennifer, Quinn and I were one happy planet, seated on our uncomfortable wing chair, our eyes orbiting The Biggest Loser. If little Pluto was in need of loving, it would find it in this household.
But for its own comfort, tell it to bring a chair.