When I returned to college after Kalyn entered preschool, I had the good fortune to take a class in meteorology to satisfy my earth science requirement. The professor was more interested that her students learn how to understand forecasts and how to ‘read the sky’, than she was in measuring our memorization prowess. Still today, I remember many forecasting techniques and understand weather patterns and phenomena.
It was in that class that I first learned about the Perseid meteor shower which occurs every year in August as the earth passes through part of our orbit which is littered with giant rocks trapped in our galaxy. Inspired by the possibility of watching multiple ‘falling stars’, I and my daughters who were 4 and 7 years old, dragged our blankets out into the dark backyard, and together we watched nature’s light show. Living in the suburbs, the sky was too illuminated by the Fort Worth city lights to see a vivid display. But that first night of star gazing together, we saw a few streaking meteors…. enough to capture our ooohs and my daughters’ awe.
After that first year, it became our tradition to sit under the dark dome of night sky late each summer, staring into the vastness of heaven, waiting in anticipation for another star shower. I have memories of some evenings that were calm with only a few streaks to delight our sleepy eyes. There were years when the stars fell in such profusion, that we couldn’t have counted them if we tried. The custom developed; there were years of star entertainment with popcorn and sodas, years when we got more mosquito bites than bits of light. A few years, clouds blocked the show altogether, like a velvet curtain blocking the stage in front of a theatre. There was the year we invited friends and drove out into the countryside, gazing into the sky while washing down sweet Krispy Kreme donuts with milk, nestled all cozy in the bed of Steve’s pick-up truck, made soft with multiple quilts and pillows. One year, our family of four all attended youth church camp in northeast Texas at just the right time in August to share our fun; camp counselors tucked the tired youngsters into their bunks, then quietly stole outside with sleeping bags and lay back in eager vigil on the meadow outside the cabins. We were treated to an extraordinary light show that year, far from the interference of brightness of town, the flashes and streaks were like a fireworks display, an amazing gift from the milky way stretching across the sky above us.
As the years passed, Kirstyn and Kalyn had busier lives. Some years one or the other wasn’t present to observe the flares in the sky. We sought the light anyway, gazing upward beside the ones who were present. As children do, the time came when both girls left home, gone to meet the world on their own terms. Every August, I still am stirred to venture out into the night and look up into the blackness. From the backyard of my empty nest, the sky looks bigger than before, the stars seem farther away, their twinkle dimmed by the distance. I hug my arms around myself and close my eyes in reverie; just beyond my grasp are those warm summer nights from before, the taste of popcorn or sweet donut glaze on my tongue, the scent of cut grass cooling in the evening breezes of my memories. The loneliness for earlier days with my girls closes in around me in place of the blankets from those earliest years. I wonder, somewhere in those vast heavens, are the sounds of our joy and delight from decades past still rocketing outward into the blackness? Do the memories of those childhood August evenings bring a smile to my girls, like it does to me? Do they ever look upward at night and long for the sky above them to shower down upon them like before?
As I wait in the solitary night, gazing up, for a moment I hear the sweet voice of 4 year old Kirstyn… words of her favorite song echo in my mind, coming back from those enchanted days….’Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, someone’s thinking of me, and loving me tonight. Somewhere, out there, someone’s saying a prayer, That we’ll find one another in that great somewhere out there. And even though I know how very far apart we are, It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star. And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby, it helps to think were sleeping underneath the same big sky!”.
Thanks to the grand universe for your dazzling, hurling hunks of rock! Thanks to a meteorology professor who decades ago sparked the summer nights for me and my girls. Thank you creator of the heavens, for the gift of my daughters who make my eyes shine, lighting my lifetime.