As the boys played in the play area at Chick-Fil-A the other night, Jane sat with her parents and quizzed us on geography.
“What’s the capital of South Africa?” she asked.
“Johannesburg,” I answered.
“How do you know that?!?”
“It’s common knowledge,” her dad said.
“No it’s not! Fine, what’s the capital of Mexico?”
“Panama?” she started to laugh.
“Panama City. What’s the capital of Nevada?” I asked, turning the tables.
“What? I don’t know. Um. Nevada City?”
“Um… how about… California City?”
“No, but that’s closer. It starts with Ca and ends in ity.” Eventually we got her to name it by giving the last name of a classmate named Carson. We moved on to other states. Her knowledge of state capitals was fairly weak.
“The capital of Florida…” she tried to answer, “…is… it’s like… Naomi. Right?”
“Are you trying to say Miami?”
“Yes! That’s it!”
“No, that’s not the capital of Florida.”
“But it’s pretty close to Miami, isn’t it?”
“No, actually the capital of Florida is about as far away from Miami as you can get and still be in Florida. It’s Tallahassee. How ’bout Kansas?”
“It’s not Kansas City, right? I mean, Kansas City is in Oklahoma.”
“I mean. It’s in Texas? No, wait… it’s somewhere… Missouri!”
“Actually it’s in both Missouri and Kansas, but what’s the capital of Kansas?”
“I don’t know.”
“Wichita*. How about Texas?”
There was a moment of stunned silence before, “No, wait! I meant Austin! I meant Austin!”
“Wow,” her dad said. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“I’m not even a Texan and I know the capital,” I added.
“It used to be the capital! It’s because of time travel! I travel with The Doctor, you see. I just forgot when I was. I’m confused. No, I’m…”
“Befuddled?” suggested her dad.
“Yes. Wait. No!”
I truly wish I had a recording of the conversation because I’ve forgotten many of the details. We traveled all over the world, naming capitals and rattling off facts, teasing each other and laughing the whole time. We all got to show off our knowledge and struggle through our weaknesses, like when I took several minutes to call to mind that Ottawa was the capital of Canada, while Jane grinned like the Cheshire Cat. She had classmates playing in the play area, but she chose to spend her time with us, exercising her brain. I truly cherish moments like this.
*Edit: To my great amusement, a friend on the East Coast, far, far away from Kansas, pointed out to me that Topeka is the capital of Kansas, the state that borders my husband’s and my home state. We also misstated the capital of India, but that one didn’t make it into the story. Proof that even the parents don’t always get it right.