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It’s Full of Stars

July 19, 2009
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Someone said to me the other day that I picked a good summer to be pregnant. It’s true. I don’t have air conditioning and to tell the truth I’ve only missed it on a couple of days when it’s gotten really miserable. But for it to be late July in Virginia and under 70 degrees at night is kind of amazing! And it’s really been like this all summer long, one of the mildest I can remember, honestly.

I live in a fairly small town in northwestern Virginia, in the northern half of the Shenandoah Valley and near one of the entrance points to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. It’s still within hurling distance of Northern Virginia, so two or three days a week I slog into the sprawl to work at my office. The other two or three business days I work from home.

I guess sometimes I take for granted how beautiful it is where I live. I don’t always remember to notice it, living right in the middle of town. My husband’s parents live on several acres about 10 miles south of here, outside of town and right underneath the mountains. We spent the day there, along with my son, and my stepdaughter, who brought a friend along. After a cookout and lots of frisbee time for the guys, Doodlemaier took the kids down to the creek to build a campfire, where they made S’mores.

I mostly sat by and watched, augmenting my recipe collection from various magazines that have been piling up, when suddenly I was ready to keel over and nap. Wasn’t really up for the campfire anyway; the smoke is overwhelming for me even when I’m not pregnant. But it really was campfire weather–as I slept and the sun went down, the air actually took on a chill.

The kids woke me up around 10. You lose track of time out there–I have no idea what time I conked out, but when a passel of tweens and teens come charging through the house demanding ice cream (the S’mores, it turned out, had not gone so well–the chocolate had turned out to be of the unsweetened baker’s variety). After some time relaxing in the living room, with Doodlemaier curled up next to me, murmuring silly things to my thumping belly, Elder Son on and I got ready to go–hubby and his daughter were sleeping over. As we walked out to the car, an overwhelming feeling of peace came over me. I looked up in the sky and thousands of stars… THOUSANDS! were scattered across the sky in patterns that came back to my memory easily. I said something to Elder Son about it, pointing out the Big Dipper, and he said, “Wow, you’re right, I’ve never seen it so clearly.” Coming across the sky, I pointed out Cassiopeia, and Perseus. Elder Son asked about the bright star dead center overhead, and I said, “That’s Vega. It’s a star in the swan.” “Cygnus?” he said. Yep. (except I’m wrong: it’s actually in the lyre, right next to the swan. but not bad for dredging up information I hadn’t looked at since Elder Son was about 9.)

Then I pointed out the swath of mist in the sky behind these summer constellations, explaining that it was the Milky Way, and not a cloud at all. That it’s full of stars, stars so finely grained and clustered that they look like a thin wisp of atmosphere, stretched in a ribbon from one side of the sky to the other.

I’ve long said that one of the joys of parenthood is transmitting a sense of wonder at the world and the universe. We had one of those moments tonight, and it’s so rare with a teenager that I’m pondering on it tonight. We’ll have many of those moments with Bunky, after so many missed with Elder Son and Lil’D, my stepdaughter, because of custody stuff. But each of those moments that we share with our children is a gift, one that will carry them into adulthood, as they get in touch with their own sense of wonder and transmit it to their own children some day.

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