I nearly missed the small newspaper article that announced:
“On Nov. 18, 2001, sky watchers will be able to view a dazzling storm of Leonid meteors”
I love shooting stars. Viewable meteor showers are so rare. It’s like finding an arrowhead while planting a garden: it just doesn’t happen every day. Imagine what the ancients thought when they witnessed the heavens behaving like the crackling embers leaping from their cooking fires. Those white-hot sparks hurt if they fell on you. What harm were these gigantic versions in the sky capable of doing to their homes, their very existence? The people must have shivered with reverence and terrible fear.
My modern predicament was this: should I or should I not tell my young sons? On the one hand, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On the other hand, they would be so cranky and disagreeable all Sunday, after losing a night of sleep. That would really be no fun. But, I repeat: I love shooting stars, and I had never witnessed a meteor shower.
I decided to share the news. For all I knew, it would be greeted with the same enthusiasm as when I interrupted their video game to say, “Hey, let’s all walk the dog.” I was pleasantly surprised by their reactions. Count them in! Although, I think the idea of staying up late was more compelling than the actual meteors.
That night, with the event two weeks away, it was all we talked about at the dinner table. We made our game plan. There was a basketball court in walking distance from our house, and it would be deserted, clear from light pollution. We would take our blankets and spread them out to watch the show. I would be the one and only adult, as their father preferred his sleep.
November 17th arrived, and the day blew by like a Florida hurricane, but with less residual damage. Then, suddenly, it was time for bed. I knew that sleep was not going to happen for my exuberant boys who were still in disbelief that mom wanted them to go outside in the middle of the night to watch for shooting stars. I believe that the term “bouncing off the walls” was first coined that night in my own house, but I could be mistaken.
The alarm clock went off at 2:30 a.m. I slammed it off quickly, so as not to wake my husband. The boys had not slept a wink! So, we quickly re-energized with hot chocolate topped with lots of marshmallows before heading outside.
Off we trooped to the basketball court and spread out our blankets. We lay down and waited. The only sound that we could hear was the pure silvery silence unique to that time between night and day. That, plus the loud croaking of frogs down by the canal. Whenever the frogs suddenly stopped, we would look at each other with wide eyes.
“Why are they so quiet?” my children asked with trepidation.
“That’s probably the neighbor’s cat or a raccoon, maybe a possum, scaring them to silence”, I replied and immediately two young boys cuddled closer in delighted fright.
“This is an adventure!” breathed my youngest. We stared up at the starry night sky. We stared some more.
“Nothing’s happening,” yawned my eldest. And just then the show began. The Heavens opened, gigantic diamonds smashed to bits, sparkling pieces flying across the onyx black sky.
We hushed ourselves as though in a House of Worship. The boys had never imagined anything as dazzling as what we were witnessing. We, alone, were representatives for all the neighbors and their friends who were snug in their beds, naively sleeping through this miracle.
Meteors zipped by at an amazing rate, too rapid for counting. This awe-inspiring display went on and on. I tried so hard to interpret what I was seeing. Was there a message? As we lay there, heaven above and earth below, we each solemnly agreed that what we were sharing was too extraordinary, too monumental to be simply experienced and then forgotten. We knew that we were now destined to accomplish astonishing things. It was proclaimed so in the stars.
Sixteen years have passed since that magical night, and yet my sons remember it as though it occurred yesterday. It is a memory etched in our hearts. I am so thankful that I chose adventure over sleep, bending the rules versus playing it safe. I was rewarded with hugs from grateful sons and elevated to the status of Super Cool Mom. My fear of crabby kids was unfounded, but later that day, our little trio crashed on the big bed for an afternoon nap and cuddles. All was right in the world.