Before there was Pinterest, there was my mom. As the mother of four girls, she never seemed to run out of ideas to keep us occupied, entertained, engaged, and not killing each other. I have very few memories of feeling bored as a kid, and I have countless memories of ordinary days that felt like special events. Hosting the Olympics in our driveway, setting up an entire grocery store in the garage, and planning a perfect backyard picnic for us and our dolls where she read pages of Little Women to her little women are some of, but nowhere near all of, my mom’s greatest hits. Even now she regularly dazzles her grandkids by throwing together a tea party or a special holiday craft, just because she knows they’ll love it. But a few days ago I realized I had just missed this year’s chance to see the Geminid meteor shower and I was reminded of one of my all-time favorite childhood memories.
One year, on the night of prime meteor viewing, my mom loaded us up in the car and drove us out into the country just to look at the stars.
I don’t remember how old I was, but I do remember that before that night I had never seen a single “shooting star.” I don’t know how many I saw that night but I know I lost count somewhere around 30. The magic of the stars plus the thrill of being out so late and in the middle of nowhere came together to create a picture-perfect memory that I’ll have for a lifetime.
Another cold night sky I remember is the night of a lunar eclipse. We bundled up and dragged camping chairs and blankets down the driveway and spent at least an hour staring up at the moon. My mom taught us all the “moon songs” she knew and by the time the eclipse had passed, we were singing “Shine On Harvest Moon” in four parts.
I don’t remember if I did my homework those nights, or what I had for dinner, or if I was grumpy getting up for school the next morning.
What I do remember is that I felt in awe of the wonder of the universe and that my mom sharing her love of the simple magic of the sky with us made me feel so special and loved.
When my husband and I were dating I decided to share the magic of the sky with him too, so one night we bundled up and drove out into the country and laid on the hood of my car to watch a meteor shower while I taught him all the “moon songs” I know. I remember seeing the look on his face and hearing the joy in his laugh every time he spotted a meteor and realizing that night that I would marry him someday.
Yes, your children will fondly remember the birthday parties you spent so much money on, the elaborate mischief their elf got up to every Christmas, and all of the complex, elaborate ways you bend over backward to make magic for them. But even so, some of their favorite memories will be “no assembly required.” Sometimes all you need for a lasting memory is a couple of chairs, a warm blanket, and the sky.