Rethinking Mother Earth at the Arcade

baby earthThe prize store at the Main Event, a family fun center in a strip mall in north Austin, sucks. And I know I’m not just an aged-out mom on this count. My kids hate it too. They just don’t realize they hate it.

My daughter is stuck deciding if she wants to spend her prize tickets on the cheap, sparkly headband that leaves her with 10 tickets and not get the Sour Patch Kids candy. Because those cost 20 tickets. Or she can get seven packets of Sour Patch Kids candy, and no headband. She knows the headband will break soon. But it’s so sparkly. Yet, the candy is so good and sour and I won’t buy it for her.

So the place sucks. And it requires much walking in circles evaluating choices. Adding, subtracting, agonizing, eventually tears.

By the time the tears come, I’m so overstimulated from the pings and zings and zaps of the arcade and disoriented by the false darkness in the middle of the day that I am circling too, avoiding the orbit of my daughter until the excruciating decisions are complete.

On my fifth or so lap, I notice one item in the prize store that doesn’t glow or sparkle. It isn’t fluorescent. It isn’t even wrapped in plastic. Stuck on a corner shelf is a globe. It’s about the size of a grapefruit, and instead of being held on its axis by a rod stuck through the poles, the sphere is suspended on its stand by a magnet at the North Pole. It’s colored the pale tan of faded parchment. A band of copper traces the Equator.

This tiny earth spins easily on the magnet at the top, and I give it whirl. It’s satisfying. I turn the planet to look at Japan where I went looking for the giant jellyfish, now almost two years ago. I trace my path from Tsushima, to the Ariake Sea, across the Bering sea back to Austin. It’s a short trip on this little globe.

I spin it again, and I think, “This little baby globe is just adorable.” I am struck with the thought that Mother Earth is no longer the right metaphor. Our control over this planet is so vast that we have the responsibility for its well-being, like a parent. And just as we know the various ailments that affect our kids, places where their skin is dry, or if they have a blister, or a rash, we need to better understand our planet so that we know those places where problems occur. Some problems are like the ones our kids have that won’t make a difference by dinnertime. Resistance exists, or can develop. Others signal bigger problems, and for those we need to find solutions.

I didn’t force my daughter to give up the sparkly headband so I could get that baby globe that day at Main Event. But later I found a tiny toy globe with a magnet on the bottom and it sticks on the corner of my metal stove. I keep there as a reminder of our tiny planet, and my role in it, which is larger than I used to think.

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