“Where does the sun go after it slips into the sea?” Stevie asked.
“Well, ummm…it’s actually still there. It’s just that the earth is moving and the sun is moving, so then we can’t see it anymore.” I tried to sound as wise as possible but had no idea if I succeeded. I remember Stevie had looked at me and then out at the ocean and squinted his eyes as if that would help him see something that might or might not be there.
“But why?” three-year-old Jeremy asked, as he jumped up and down on one foot. “Why Mommy, why?”
That was the stock question Jeremy always asked. Why?
“It’s just the way it is.” I smiled. How could I explain exactly why the earth moved around the sun in a way that my three young kids would understand? Melissa hadn’t said anything. She just looked out at the ocean.
“Why did the sun go away, Mommy, why, why?” Jeremy ran up and down the sidewalk chasing seagull.
“It’s just that the earth moves and the sun moves, so now they can see the sun in China.”
“China?” Stevie said. “China, where’s China?”
I sighed. “China is on the other side of the world. When we can’t see the sun, they can.”
“Wow, the other side of the world?”
“Yes,” I said, looking out at the different shades of deep orange that burst across the darkening sky, just as it always did when the sunset on a clear day.
The other side of the world, I remember thinking, looking out into the Pacific Ocean. That’s where we had been for several years, in Germany, on the other side of the world, and now here I was. I never in a million years thought I’d be standing at Nye Beach looking out at the ocean with my three kids, and that I’d be living in a beautiful small town on the Oregon coast that my mother had fallen in love with back in 1976. I could see why – there was a charm to the town, especially when all the tourists left in late summer and only the local people remained. I remember how I couldn’t believe my mother wanted to move to the “boonies” when she lived in San Francisco, where I grew up, the best city in the world. Secretly, I still thought San Francisco was the best city in the world. And some day, no matter how many years it took, someday I’d return there.
I didn’t have to say it. It was deep within me, that secret desire. I couldn’t explain it any better than I could explain why the sun slipped into the ocean, and why the people in China could see the sun when we couldn’t. I looked down at my kids and smiled. Someday, I thought, someday when you’re a lot older, we will be standing at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
How do I explain this to my kids?