Best Numbers and Peas

“Hey, Mom, do you know what the best number is?”

Karl asked this at dinner because we were discussing numbers.

For the record, I did not know what the best number was, nor did I even know there was a best number.

I mean, I do have a soft spot for primes and squares. Doesn’t everybody?

But I don’t have a favorite number.

And I didn’t know there was a best number.

The discussion had started with the number four.  I don’t remember who said it, but someone brought up the fact that four is considered unlucky in certain countries like Korea or China.

“It’s like thirteen in this country,” I said, “but I don’t think thirteen is that bad. It is, after all, prime.”

That’s when Karl asked the best number question.

“Seven?” Bud guessed.

A lot of people really like seven. It’s a prime. And considered lucky.

“Nope,” Karl answered. “But it has a seven in it.”

I started mentally running through the numbers ending with seven. “Seventeen?” I guessed.

“Nope.”

I knew it couldn’t be twenty-seven. It is a cube number which makes it interesting, but not the best.

“Thirty-seven?” I guessed.

“It’s seventy-three,” Karl said. “It’s the twenty-first prime and the mirror of thirty-seven which is the twelfth prime. Twelve and twenty-one are mirrors.”

Kind of cool. For someone who likes prime numbers. And symmetry.

How we got from there to spitting peas I don’t know.

Laurel and Karl

Really. The next thing I knew Karl was challenging Laurel to a pea-spitting contest.

They each took a few peas from their dinner plate and headed to the back deck to see who could spit them farther.

“Mom,” Mary pleaded, “they’re spitting peas.”

“I know,” I said, “but Karl leaves for college soon.”

Would I have allowed this years ago when Philip was heading off to college? Probably not.

But I’ve learned.

At the end of the day, the things we remember aren’t the quirky discussions of numbers but the spitting of peas and the accompanying laughter.

I so want my children to look back at their growing up years and be able to laugh.