The first player to score in tennis earns fifteen points. Fifteen-love. I guess no one is sure why zero in tennis was originally called love, however “the most accepted theory is that those with zero points were still playing for the ‘love of the game’ despite their losing score.”

Maybe it’s immature to think of this coparenting journey as a tennis match but sending a child back and forth between two households was a never ending volley, until it wasn’t. Many times I remind myself I’ve consistently chosen to play the long game when it comes to parenting, that I may be in a streak of losing game after game, I may be about to lose this set, but if we’re lucky, it’s still early in the match. In the long game, maybe I have a chance. The long game is the basket I have all my eggs in.

In the short game I’m at zero. Zero is love. Love is zero. Love is a big goose egg. Love is missing the egg I could be finding. Love is emptiness. Empty spaces. Empty nest. Empty loft bed with dinosaur stickers on the side, dinosaur flannel sheets, fuzzy owl blanket, and a quilt each from Grammy and Mama. Empty seat at the table. Empty green plate that I’m sure is too small for him to eat off of now. Except for maybe eating birthday cake. Which he isn’t going to eat from it this year.

Image credit Roberto Mura


We left off at fourteen, chatting about galaxy NGC 14 and a quasar called the Einstein Cross in the constellation of Pegasus, the winged horse. Well, 4.2° west-northwest of the brightest star in Pegasus, there is a globular cluster called Messier 15. M15 is 360,000 times the luminosity of the sun, contains pulsars and a planetary nebula, and wouldn’t you know it: astronomy suspects its center may contain a black hole.

In another galaxy called Holmberg 15, a supermassive black hole was recently discovered, one of the largest black holes ever known (40 billion solar masses, I guess that does sound big). I thought, huh, I wonder what constellation Holmberg 15 is found in. Wouldn’t you know, it’s in Cetus, the whale. (I’ve said it before, you can’t make this stuff up.)

This little planet Quinn has now taken fifteen trips around our sun on, rotates 15 degrees per hour, making the sun and stars appear to move fifteen degrees per hour over our heads.

From the music of the spheres to the music of our own solar system, fifteen is a special number. Not a lot of time signatures involve 15, but there is one I know of:


Which is sometimes called compound quintuple meter. Or it can be called triple quintuple time. Marking time in our ongoing separation feels complicated, like it might need a special time signature. It feels compound, in the sense that a fracture can be compound. It feels like I need to concentrate hard. Then it feels like I need to avoid thinking about it at all. I think compound Quintuple meter fits.

My ability to document the lifelong learning that is still ongoing despite our separation has ebbed and flowed. The notes have been tucked away, and I have not given up on one day backtracking to revisit this time, but for now, my heart isn’t ready for much of it.

A few of his presents are Rubik’s cubes. He recently solved his 6 by 6 Rubik’s cube, so I got him the 7 by 7, as well as some other shapes that remind him of D&D dice, and finally, a Molecube. He told me about solving the 6 by 6, detailed step by step his approach to solving it, which reminds me that I’ve never entirely trusted the evaluation that disqualified him from being on the tippy end of the autism spectrum, and come to think of it I wonder about myself sometimes, and if you’re still reading this verbose sentence you must really love us for who we are. Example:

“The three by three is interesting to solve, because you can’t move the centers in relation to each other. You can only move other things in relation to the centers. You have to solve all the corners, of which there are eight in any cube puzzle, and you also have to solve the grand total of twelve edges between all these corners. My method solves four adjacent corners that are all on one face, then solves all the edges between those corners, all with the center obviously solved for those. Flip the cube over, solve the other four corners. I always do the same colors. I go to the yellow, I solve the yellow corners, along with the yellow layer, like not just that side of the yellow is solved, but like the green and the red on the side of it, whatever. Then I flip, and I solve the four white corners, then I flip it like this with yellow on the left and white on the right. And from that there are some other sequences you can use to solve the white edges. So, you use sequence A1 and A2, E1, E2, E3 and E4 to solve the yellow side. Flip it, and use sequences C and A2 again to solve the white corners. Then flip it so the white is on the right. And using sequences G1 and G2, solve the white edges….”

At this point in my audio file we are at 4:41 of a 39:43 minute “dialogue” concerning cubing solutions and it will probably take me until he is sixteen to type in the rest.


As usual with birthdays around here, there are the mathematical fun facts. Fun facts about 15, according to Wikipedia:

15 is a lucky number.

Fifteen is a triangular number:

12 months 8 sock monkey 

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Picturez 006 happy 7 orange IMG_6629  


When I first made a grid of Quinn’s previous nine birthdays as he turned ten, I reflected on him being halfway to 18 one year and halfway to 20 that next year.

Now he’s halfway to 30.

15 is a hexagonal number:


hexagonal grid of circles oe each for Quinn's 15 years

Fifteen is a repdigit in binary, and there are few people who love binary counting as much as Quinn, age 1111.

15 is a magic constant of magic squares.

In pi, 15 comes after 14:


All of which is to say that 15 is quull.

In navigation, every 15 degrees of longitude equals one time zone. These lines of longitude, also known as meridians, are farthest apart at the equator, but they come together at the poles… eventually.

In the meantime, we can span time zones on computers, even three of them if we need to, as Quinn recently has to connect with his cousins Mario and Luigi on Discord. The three of them are peas in a pod still, even online, where Quinn is leading his cousins on a D&D quest for which he prepared a nine-page campaign script, five spreadsheets worth of maps, and an ancient scroll to introduce them to the quest.

Fifteen is the number of months Quinn had been out of the womb when he started walking. Now that he is 180 months of age, the moments I am going to look back on are our walks together. Our pre-birthday hike was a good one, and we noted that our spot in the forest is also visited by owls:

Someone has pruned a lot of the regenerating trees on either side of the trail, limbing them up so they will grow taller (the trail goes through former clear cut). On the way back down the hill, the light was just right for me to see what is left of some of the mother trees, still present there, still supporting the lanky youth.

Quinn, you are the magic constant in this mama’s life. Wishing you a happy fifteenth birthday today!

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