Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Monday, December 27, 2010

Eclipse Parties

Still having computer difficulties, so I'm getting behind on reading blogs. I was just doing a little catching up and while visiting Crafty Green Poet was reminded of the lunar eclipse that I did not get to see last week. My comment on her eclipse post prompted me to post this.

Eclipse parties. The two younger kids and I used to enjoy watching lunar eclipses and meteor showers whenever possible. We would put sleeping bags and pillows on the ground in the front yard (our best spot for viewing), get some snacks together, and settle in for the show. We've been doing this since they were in kindergarten or maybe even in preschool. Summer or winter, if the sky was clear or even partially clear, we'd lie out on the front lawn and watch. It was great fun. Admittedly, when they were younger they often fell asleep before the big show and I would have to wake them up for a quick look before putting them to bed, but the anticipation, preparation, and time together lying out on the ground were as much a part of the experience as the viewing. Their dad usually preferred to stay inside and just peek out now and then to see how things were progressing, but he did his part in the family experience by bringing us hot chocolate when the weather was cold and inquiring as to whether we needed anything at other times of the year, then helping me get the sleepyheads to bed and clean up our viewing site. Our outside cats would join us and sometimes we'd be treated to visits by neighbors' cats as well as the occasional non-domesticated critters such as raccoons or 'possums crossing the yard to get from one neighborhood foraging spot to another.

I remember one eclipse party when Robert was in kindergarten. It must have been a total eclipse because of the amount of publicity beforehand, but I don't really remember (guess I could look it up if I felt like taking the time to work out the year). At any rate, I allowed him to stay up well past normal bedtime to watch with his sister and me, all the while thinking that he was probably going to be really sleepy at school the next day and the teacher would admonish me for allowing him to stay up so late. His sister, only in the third grade, would probably have to endure the same chastisement from her teacher and I would get it from both teachers. My defense would be that this was a wonderful educational opportunity that doesn't happen that often and one that I did not think they should miss. I hoped to instill in my children a love of the natural world and astronomy, so they would be allowed to stay up for the eclipse. We watched the event and the kids were awake most of the time, catnapping now and then. We made it to school just fine the next morning, but I dreaded afternoon carpool when the teachers for the early elementary grades gathered to monitor and assist the boarding of their students like mother hens herding their chicks to safety. I could just hear the teacher's remarks: "Mrs. Lehman! What possessed you to allow Robert to stay up so late to watch the eclipse! He has been off task all day and a complete sleepy head. Maintaining a regular schedule and getting enough sleep is essential to one's well-being. Please do not do this again." Oh, well. I'd face the music when the time came. In the meantime, we were watching the eclipse.

The next afternoon as I waited in the carpool line, I saw Robert's teacher, Mrs. Souvenir, heading straight for my car. Uh oh. I was in for it. I cringed in anticipation. Wait. She was smiling. This is not what I expected. Perhaps she thought to catch more flies with honey and approach with a sweet demeanor before telling me how irresponsible it was that I let my children stay up until nearly 2:00 in the morning to watch a lunar eclipse. To my surprise and great relief, she commended me heartily for allowing them to stay up to have the opportunity to view this rare phenomenon of nature. She told me that Robert was the only kid in the class who could make any reasonable comments about the eclipse, even after their classroom discussions the previous days, and the only one who actually got to see it. Whew! I was relieved. Mrs. Souvenir was a wonderful teacher, but a stickler for schedules, so that kind of positive reinforcement was quite a surprise. However, even if she had figuratively given me detention for depriving my children of sleep, I would have still made a point to try to get them out to watch eclipses whenever weather and visibility allowed. They can always sleep, but they can't always view an eclipse.

We were hoping for another eclipse party last week. We'd had several consecutive nights of very clear skies, even though the temperatures were quite low. I was anticipating snuggly sleeping bags and Dad delivering hot chocolate now and then. Unfortunately, cloud cover had set in early in the day and never cleared during the night. It didn't look as though there would be any possibility of viewing, so we didn't even try to get together for it. Now and then I would go to the front porch to see if there was a break in the clouds, but no luck. Because it seemed that the cloud cover was light, I hoped that it might be possible to see a faint red glow through the clouds at totality, but I think the cloud cover increased as the night wore on.

We missed the eclipse. And our eclipse party. Robert is now 20 and Joanna is 23, so this might have been the last chance to get together for an eclipse party before the kids leave the area and go their separate ways. We should have had a party in honor of the eclipse, lying out in the cold on our sleeping bags, snacking, drinking hot chocolate, and talking of past eclipse parties while viewing the lovely blanket of clouds. I can only hope that they will continue this tradition of family eclipse parties and have them with their children with the time comes.

And who knows, maybe we'll have a party to commemorate the eclipse, complete with sleeping bags and hot chocolate on the front lawn, before the new semester begins.


  1. What a lovely tradition to have memories of!

  2. THAT is so cool. What an awesome mom! Your kids will always remember those fun times.

  3. I wish I had done this with my children! Good job, mom!

    Reading this I was reminded of when I was a child and we slept outside in our backyard in the summer. We'd watch for shooting stars until we dozed off. Happy memories...

  4. what a wonderful way to help your children learn about the natural world! A lunar eclipse is such a beautiful event to watch too....

    Thanks for the link too by the way...

  5. What is the saying? Something like "what is said to the child is written on the teenager" ... I think that stuff sticks!

  6. Happy New Year, all! And thanks for the comments. I do hope I've made some sort of lasting impression on those kids.