There are a couple of social theories out there about the timing of the great discoveries and inventions throughout history. The Heroic Theory of Discovery posits that the individuals who came up with the history-changing, earth-shattering innovations are “heroic” in nature. They are these rare geniuses who come along only once in an entire historical period.
By contrast, the Theory of Multiple Discovery explains that, often, great discoveries are made simultaneously and independently by a number of smart people, who, building upon the work of previous scholars, come to an identical innovative idea at the same time.
I’ve always been fascinated by the clusters of amazing people who lived at the same time in history. Take the Renaissance, for example, when people like Michelangelo and Da Vinci were living on Earth at the same time. Apparently, Newton, Leibniz, and Fermat were all working, independently, on calculus at the same time; why three people on the planet would want to do calculus at the same time is beyond me.
At our house, discoveries are made by a single, heroic individual. I can’t remember a solitary instance when more than one person in our family made an important breakthrough at the same time. Come to think of it, I can’t remember a time when anyone but this particular heroic individual has made any discoveries at all, even staggered over the course of years.
I saw a refrigerator magnet last week that said, “Nothing is ever truly lost unless Mom can’t find it.” This proves to be the case for us, and I must say that I am up against a number of obstacles that surpass even those faced by Galileo when he was trying to convince the establishment that we live in a heliocentric universe.
The first obstacle is my youngest daughter’s packrat tendency. Clementine, age six, is . . . let’s just say “creative” with how she organizes items. Like me, she loves containers. However, her sorting strategy is different than mine.
As of this writing, we have an Easter basket (it’s October, by the way) sitting on the floor of the mudroom that contains a box of raisins, a seashell, Millie’s toothbrush, a tube of lip gloss, a folded note, an ear of Indian corn (it’s October, you know), one of our nice spoons, eight Legos, and a walnut.
In our backyard, we have a rake tied to a tree with a dirty old rope. On the prongs of the rake are hanging a plastic pitcher (that’s where that thing went), the frame of an old Connect Four game, a toy arrow, a Barbie leg, Joel’s car keys, and a coffee mug.
In an empty laundry detergent box under Clementine’s bed, we might find a toy spider, a box of cotton swabs, two double A batteries, a spool of thread, a stapler, and what may very well be part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, though it could also be a doggy treat.
My teen daughter isn’t much better, though there’s less of an obvious organizational scheme behind her messes. Since my older two kids go back and forth between their dad’s house and ours, Millie’s stuff is often divided in unusual ways. For instance, one volleyball kneepad might be at her dad’s house, and one is probably not at ours. Her laptop might be at our house and the charger might be tied to a rake hanging from a tree in our backyard. Her flute music might be at her grandma’s and her flute might be in the bathroom at her dad’s.
Luckily, I have a pretty strong visual memory. Here’s a typical evening scenario:
Millie: Have you seen my toothbrush?
Me: It’s in an Easter basket on the mudroom floor just to the right of the back door.
Joel: Hey, Honey, have you seen my keys?
Me: They’re on a prong of a rake hanging from the tree in the backyard.
Dashiell: Do we have any Q-tips?
Me: There’s a package in a detergent box under Clementine’s bed. It’s the Tide box, not the Gain box.
Until some social psychologist wants to do a study on my powers of visual memory, I’ll be busy here making up a pitcher of Sangria, but first I need to run out to the tree in the backyard and get that pitcher off the rake.