It’s a lazy August weekend with a few of our authors on vacation.
You don’t have to run away to witness one of the most fun events in our summer sky. It’s the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend and you don’t have to be a million miles from civilization to see it.
If the shower fell on a weeknight my husband would sleep through it, but otherwise he was right there with us. We’d make ourselves comfortable and then watch. One year, when the shower fell on a weeknight, our girls were in their preteen-early teen years. We lived in a city. We all went outside and I warned them to keep their voices down, because at that hour, sound seems to carry. The girls spread out across the front of our vehicles and got comfortable. On a good viewing night, you can see 1 or 2 shooting stars a minute even in the city.
A police officer was patrolling through the area and stopped in front of our vehicles. He called for back up. Hmm, I’m sure a two young teens and their mom must have looked like we were about to riot or do some other dastardly deed, and he’d have to arrest us and a three to one ratio wasn’t exactly in his favor. Suddenly we had about 5 cars in the front of us.
I’m thinking what the heck is going on? Are they chasing a major bank robber through our quiet little neighborhood. No. They were coming for us. Seriously? We’re in our own yard and the girls are on our vehicles.
This story just keeps getting a little more complicated – sort of like Alice’s Restaurant. (I’m showing my age.) A little background… I had a family member who was one of the big brass in the police department. That sounds as though I should know most everyone there. Not even close. I knew a few of the people with which he closely worked, because they would show up at Christmas parties or Fourth of July picnics. One of the cars that pulled in with several others, I spotted who it was. He got out of his car, crossed his arms over his chest, and leaned against his car with his big Cheshire smile plastered on his face. The young officer shined his bright flashlight into my eyes and starts asking questions. Aside from blinding me, I was having a difficult time keeping a straight face.
Now try to explaining why the children are draped across our cars and what we are doing around 1:30 in the morning. Fortunately he turned off the flashlight, because after being in the darkness, any light would have seemed super bright. I’m blinking and trying to decide if I’ll ever see in the dark again.
me: “We’re watching the meteor shower.”
him: “What shower?”
him: “It’s not raining.”
me: (snicker) “No, sir. It’s not. If it were, we couldn’t watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. There’s one!”
me: “Sir, you’ve got to be watching for them to see them. They are fast.”
him: “What’s fast?”
me: “The falling debris from the meteor.”
me: (pointing) “Don’t look there. Look in this direction!”
Now Big Bad John is laughing. My youngest has slid off her perch on her dad’s car and is standing by John. The two of them are watching the sky. (We had perfect viewing weather.) In the meantime, the young man who has confronted me, is certain that I have a few screws loose and the girls are juvenile delinquents. At this point, every cop who had stopped is standing with John who out ranks all of them, and probably was in charge of half the city’s police night shift. (Thanks, John, for tossing me to the young wolf who apparently wasn’t paying attention in science class.)
At this point, I can no longer keep a straight face. I dissolved into giggles. Several more officers pull in, get out of their cars, and turn in the direction of the meteor shower. Apparently my block was the only place in the city to view this fabulous sky show. (Yes, I’m joking – but I’m not sure they knew they could see it elsewhere.) My other daughter has also wandered away and is standing with John.
It was Mother Nature’s fireworks display. One of the officers who came to the party a little late was verbal. “Wow! Look at that. There’s another. How long have all ya all been watchin’ this? How long does it last?”
My oldest daughter answered him. That caused my lone young officer to realize that the girls were no longer on the cars, but had stealthily slid past him were standing with everyone else in blue. And they were all watching the meteor shower. Fortunately as the young officer turned, he also caught sight of these shooting stars. “You weren’t kidding!”
John walked over to me and put his arm around my shoulder in a friendly brotherly way. (I guess he decided I needed to be rescued.) His youngest daughter and my girls all played together whenever they had the chance. John properly introduced me to the young officer and explained my connection to Martin. Even in the dark, I could see that young officer swallow real hard.
Then I gave him my spiel about shooting stars and how the Perseid shower passes through here every summer. For the next two hours, I was probably the most protected mother in that city. The girls resumed their positions on our vehicles and a few of our neighbors had joined the impromptu Meet Your Local Cops block party. I went back inside, grabbed the sleeve of paper cups, filled the ice bucket, scooped up the sodas from the refrigerator and brought everything outside.
That young officer, I felt a little sorry for him, because I knew he’d get razzed by the other cops. And to cover his tracks, he tried to explain that there was a curfew on juveniles, and seeing “people” draped over vehicles was worthy of investigation because they might have been defacing personal property. He did what he should have done, he investigated.
Oh, the girls were warned not to get on the cars if their jeans had pocket rivets. Because I would not been happy if they scratched my car, and omigosh, they would not have wanted to scratch their dad’s car!
In all fairness to our local city, not every police officer hung around that night and a few left the area only to be replaced by another. One of them wanted to know how I knew this stuff. Was I a science teacher? Not hardly.
My father loved looking up at star clusters and telling me the names of the different ones. He was the kind of man who would wake me up and have me watch the aurora borealis or see a lunar eclipse. But on very rare occasions when a solar eclipse happened, such as the one coming up, my dad was prepared with a super thick dark glass that could be used for safe viewing. I want to say it was from some sort of special welding equipment. He had it taped in a box so that I wouldn’t drop it.
I learned lots from him. From names of flowers and trees to the various bugs, he taught me. He would have loved today’s phone apps. The one that allows me to identify just about any bird I might see, or the one that allows me to point my phone towards a star and it will give me the name, tell me where the space station is or the Hubble telescope, etc.
I’m sure if I had such a phone that fateful night, it would have been easier for me to explain the Perseid shower. That young officer was doing exactly what he should have been doing, keeping our neighborhood safe from vandals and hoodlums that would climb on someone’s car. And for that I did thank him. He just happened to stumble upon one of his commanding officer’s godchildren and their mom.
I hope everyone gets a nice clear view of the shower this weekend. Go out, get comfortable so your eyes adjust to the darkness, and look towards the north. It’s the wee hours of Saturday morning here in Tidewater and it’s raining. I no longer live in that other city. But if it’s clear tonight (the prediction is for more rain this entire weekend), I’ll be out watching one of the fun light shows that Mother Nature provides. Doesn’t cost a penny, only a little loss of sleep, but it’s worth it. Grab the kids and explain to them what they are watching. Or spend it with your honey. Do quick search, read, and impress the one you love with your knowledge of Perseid. What’s more romantic than watching the stars with the one you love?