My middle kid is in that awkward phase between boyhood and becoming a young man. At 14, he's taller than me now, and his voice cracks with unforgiving frequency. He's academically gifted-- brilliant, actually-- and has found a love of chemistry, much like the great-grandfather he's named after.
His affection for the Periodic Table of Elements is disguised by the Oregon Ducks football jerseys he so loves to wear-- an attempt to be "one of the guys" and compensate for his social clumsiness. He faithfully practices his baritone upstairs each evening, and we wince while mentally trying to help him hit the high note in "Danny Boy" as he rehearses it over and over again in frustration.
At the dinner table, he's king of correcting the inaccuracies of others (the worst "kid phase," in our humble opinion), so we nag him constantly about tact and keeping his thoughts to himself unless they're positive or encouraging. His older sister always seems to be doing exciting things, and his younger brother is forever the life of the party, easily making friends and inducing belly laughs from perfect strangers. Meanwhile, my middle kid is the one I have the most trouble reading: a very black-and-white character whose emotions, with very rare exception, are buried beneath a stoic exterior. We've often joked that he's our very own Sheldon Cooper.
Aside from chemistry and music, our middle boy has always had a keen interest in space, so his anticipation and excitement for the "super moon" lunar eclipse was palpable on Sunday evening. When the time finally came, he pulled out his trusty telescope and painstakingly worked on its alignment outside in front of our house. I was tired and frankly a bit grumpy, and it was a typical busy school night -- packing lunches, doing laundry, signing teacher notes, writing checks for fees (they're never-ending, it seems), and feeling those "weekend is over" blues. When the dramatic Blood Moon began, we all congregated outside and watched it for a while but, one by one, we began moving back into the house to settle in for the evening.
After a half hour or so, I noticed that my son was still outside with his telescope. I somewhat grudgingly slipped my sandals back on and walked out into the crisp night, hoping our new neighbors wouldn't notice me in my pink plaid pajamas. The moon had reached a blood-red hue, and the full light of the sun was just beginning to glimmer on one edge again. My son asked for my iPhone and snapped this picture through his telescope eyepiece. Then we stood in silence for a bit while listening to the sounds of the evening: a train passing nearby, the sprinkler system's sputtering sighs as its evening cycle ended, and the new neighbors' Golden Retriever whimpering softly at their backyard gate. My son leaned over, put his arm around my shoulder, and said, "This is really something, isn't it, Mom?"
I was hit with an unexpected wave of emotion and choked up. "Yes, it really is." He then started talking for quite a while about how the sun's rays were bending and why the moon had been so red, how much it looked like Mars to him, how NASA is talking about a mission to Mars someday, how the next view like this would be in 2033, and how he'll be thirty two by then. The whole time he was talking, I kept thinking about what he'd said. It really WAS something. Life is something. Family is something. This sweet, special child is something. He tests my patience of course, like all kids do, but he's healthy, strong, loving, genuine, and good. He'll never be at this precious, awkward age again. The next time we see a moon like that, he may very well be married with children of his own.
All of this time we spend worrying about meaningless things could be spent cherishing the fleeting moments that we have on this tiny planet with our loved ones. How many families stood outside that night staring at the moon together? Just a quick search of the #SuperBloodMoon hashtag on Twitter shows that many thousands were "tuned in" and marveling at the spectacle. How many of us really cherished the moment -- looked over at our kids and thought about how memorable the night was? I'm ashamed to say that I wouldn't have been counted among those of you who did, had it not been for my son's gentle reminder.
I studied his face as he studied the moon, mentally trying to cling on to every freckle, the tiny scar on his chin from an ill-fated ice skating attempt, his forever-crooked and smudged glasses, his sandy blonde hair, his miniature version of my father's nose, and his contented smile. If I close my eyes right now, I can picture it perfectly. I promised myself last night that I'd remember that priceless moment in time forever. Every one of us, now and then, can be tenderly reminded of what truly matters by observing the untarnished, innocent wisdom of a child who is awed by the universe around him.