Taking in the skies with the kids

Look, a shooting star! Quick, make a wish! For as many times in my life as I’ve scanned the sky looking for a shooting star, only to finally make a wish…I can’t really say as any of those wishes have come true. I remember wishing for a certain toy, a certain item of clothing, or even for a certain person to like me. Not once did the particular item materialize, and I’m pretty sure that person remains ignorant of my very existence. That’s probably a good thing though, because those wishes were just stuff. These days, I’m blessed with a family who ends up making my grown-up wishes come true.

When my daughter and I stopped last winter to watch the meteor shower, we made an amazing memory. Not wanting to leave my son out, I’ve been encouraging us to do “star stuff,” from going to Lake Afton Observatory in Goddard to playing around with a star chart app on my phone. This month, however, I thought I had the perfect solution: an actual meteor shower outing. Just me, the kids, a boatload of snacks, and the Perseid meteor shower.

I had seen the articles trickling across my Facebook for several days. What better time for a late night outing than a Sunday night just after Darling Hubs left for a business trip? There was no school the next day, so we could stay out and stare up to our hearts’ content. We could even find a dark spot, park the SUV, and open the sun roof to that we could stargaze in the A/C, bug-free. It was going to be a great night.

I have to admit to a rather large amount of pride that the kids had both developed a liking for the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (by Douglas Adams) after watching the movie last month. That series was enough of a childhood favorite of mine that my brother and I still quote it to each other. The kids were in such fine form that they even remembered to bring their towels, just in case we should need to hitch a ride with a passing Vogon destroyer. Betoweled and excited, we hit the road.

As one does on epic expeditions, we stopped at Dollar General to provision ourselves. Minutes later, laden with various and sundry chips, cookies, crackers, and sodas, we laughed our way back out to the SUV to figure out where to find the best viewing area. While checking the quadrant of the sky the shower was supposed to occupy, I discovered that we were a week early for the peak of the Perseid shower. Oops. Well, we’ve come this far. On, MacDuff.

We thought it might be pretty dark if we went out north of the wind farm, so we headed that way. The bugs seemed determined to make up for the potential lack of space debris. You know how sometimes in winter, when you drive into a snowstorm and imagine you’re piloting the Millennium Falcon through the Kessel Run? It was like that, only bug splattier. Furthermore, the further north we drove, the more clouds encroached from the northwest. Since we were supposed to be looking to the northeast to see meteors, maybe driving north wasn’t such a good idea.

We turned the Falcon, er, SUV around and debated a plan B. South of Hillsboro or Marion just wouldn’t do, having to look through ambient city light might drown whatever we saw. In a burst of insight, we headed for the Reservoir. We could get on the north side of it and have dark skies for miles. Finally, we found a spot. We decided to stay in the vehicle and get our eyes accustomed to the dark. Then the real fun began.

By now, everyone had finished their first soda. You know what comes next. Open the door, light comes on. Times four. Fight over who was sitting where. Brief skirmish over dome light and squashed chips. Cover dashboard with towel and turn on A/C to defog windows. Debate whether last sighting was actually a meteor or whether it might have been a UFO.

Pass around Mom’s phone and play with the star app, decide that Australia has all the cool stars this time of year. Spend all of ten minutes staring fixedly at the sky while shoving crunchy things in mouths. Decide that we are bored and suddenly need to go to bed right away.

Meteors sighted that night: 2, possibly 3 if you count the UFO. Memories made: great ones. I’m glad my kids are still willing to grab their towels and go gallivanting around the galaxy ( or even just the county) with their crazy old Mom. I don’t think I ever wished for kids, but I couldn’t have wished for any better than them.