OPINION | GARY SMITH: The planets align for a cherished parent-daughter moment

Planets are cool, but spontaneity with kids? Priceless

I'm not sure whether the politically correct or, frankly more accurate term is "old wive's tale" or "urban myth" (I think, for so many very good reasons, "urban myth" is likely the way to go), but I've often heard one about turkeys.

"Often" being a relative term, since I actually don't talk about and aren't in the company of people who talk about turkeys all that much. And if we do, typically the subject is how long you should keep them in the fryer and how hot the peanut oil needs to be. And then, of course, complementing the cook.

But, on those rare occasions when turkeys aren't being discussed in a culinary way, often someone will suggest that they are so stupid they'll drown in the rain. As the story goes, if domesticated turkeys are left out in a storm, drops will hit them on their heads and they'll stare skyward with their beaks open, resulting in them taking in too much water and drowning.

There's a lot wrong with that, not the least of which being that it's not true. They may not be playing fetch or learning to drive (or fly, for that matter), but turkeys aren't THAT dumb.

Besides, because their eyes are located on either side of their heads, they can't look straight at anything, much less straight up into a deluge. I'm sure that's not the only reason they don't drown because a few raindrops land on them, but it's probably, physically at least, the best one.

All this is a long way of getting to my general feeling of being a mythical turkey staring skyward in general puzzlement earlier this week. And, amazingly, I, too, did not drown.

I did, however, kind of strain my neck, which is the sort of thing that happens to those of us of a "certain age" when we do something we don't usually do for longer than a few seconds and/or until we realize we probably shouldn't be doing whatever is it we're doing anymore.

All of this was in the service of viewing the Parade of Planets, which is an astrological phenomenon that occurs when the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, Mercury -- and some star we haven't bothered to name beyond calling it M35 -- all sort of line up. It was also in the service of making my youngest daughter happy, since she decided we should all look for it. Which was enough for me.

And which also explains to readers and any of our neighbors who were wondering what I was doing staring as straight up as I could muster while standing in my backyard at dusk. I will say intent trumped execution, as we identified lots of stuff (a shooting star and an airplane, for instance), but even with the help of an app (yes, there is always an app) only spotted a few of the "Planet Parade" participants.

So while not as successful as hoped, it was impressive. I mean, I seldom look skyward with enough intent to be truly amazed by what the night sky looks like, but I should. It helps explain why our ancestors were so taken with it, at least until television was invented. So they got to enjoy something wonderful and awe-inspiring. But they did miss the fourth season of "Succession," so ... perhaps a draw.

Also the highlight of the evening really didn't have anything to do with the night sky. Your kids grow up and strangely enough, come up with lives of their own. Interactions frequently become event-driven and focused: holidays, dinners, their kids'events, stuff like that.

Not anyone's fault, just the way it is. As parents we move off center stage and become supporting actors in our children's lives. And with that frequently goes the spontaneous events that used to be a highlight. Like ice cream runs and school projects. And spotting stars in the backyard.

Which really explains why I was standing in my backyard the other night. I mean, Planet Parades are cool and all, but what's really cool are those unplanned moments that used to happen with great regularity. The ones I miss the most.

It may explain what all those turkeys are actually up to: "Hey, Bob, come over here and take a look at the sky will you? Some of the planets are lining up! Yeah, I know, turn your head sideways. And don't worry about it. You've got to be willing to stick your neck out sometimes. It's not like you're going to drown or anything ..."

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