On the last day of our summer of 2017, a cloud that looked like Greenland moved slowly eastward in the sky. With no discernable breeze it was hard to tell how quickly it moved, but with 15 minutes to go before the total eclipse, I knew that it was going to cover it. One big, solitary cloud in the sky on this day that hadn't happened, at least in this particular iteration, in 99 years.
I told Alison that I was going to walk to see if I couldn't see it better somewhere else in the park or down the street, but it didn't take long to realize I'd need a car to get anywhere I could see the sun. Helpless because we had walked, I leaned against the rock wall surrounding Charlotte Street park and I waited and watched bummed as hell, but with one sliver of hope watching the cloud and watching the clock.
We began the summer in Maryland, visiting family, friends and Tony Kornheiser. On the way back home we found a spot about halfway home to stretch our legs, and in particular, a place where Sam and Ellie could really move. We knew we were on borrowed time because Sam had been great on the drive to and from so far. The Caverns at Natural Bridge were perfect because we would walk and be cool with the max temperature in the caverns being 57 degrees.
Ellie said it was the coolest thing she had ever seen, and Sam loved the adventure of it all. When he discovered that his voice echoed, he repeated Da-da, da-da over and over, even though he was in his favorite spot, his mother's arms.
We all touched the non-living part of the cave, and Ellie and Sam slapped it, while I held mine there for a moment thinking about how humans came from this in some form, lived in caves thousands of years ago, and the undisturbed amount of time the water and sediment shaped this hole in the earth. To borrow from Cormac McCarthy it felt like we were in one of the mazes of the world's becoming.
Science side note - Change and evolution continue in this environment. The rats who live in the cavern, and I'm assuming other caverns, have become able to metabolize some of the minerals in the cave. After they do their business it hardens, so they poop in the same place until it's a pile of concrete turds with a hole in it, and they literally move into a house made of their own shit. Awesome.
Most days we took morning walks. Some friends in Maryland gave us their double stroller, and we thought this was a good idea until we actually had to push it. Ellie should walk, but she knew there was a seat available in one of the strollers, and sometimes you just have to pick your battles. Our favorite days were when we walked the long, steep blocks to downtown and played at Splashville or the fountain in Pack Square. If we were early enough the kids could sit on the pigs before they heated under the sun. All this in the shadow of the controversial Vance Monument which had a police officer close by, and an occasional person to casually spit on the base of the memorial.
If you've read most of these posts you know that I'm often melancholy about the passage of time. In some ways that's why this exists, to capture a moment in time for my family and me. I think about some of these moments and try to imprint on my mind what my kids are doing exactly in some beautiful moment. It works enough to make it worthwhile. A few come to mind - pushing that stroller and watching the kids from behind. Sam would always hold tight, and he was always excited to get in, saying Go, go, go, until we were rolling down the sidewalk. I'll remember Ellie's birthday party and more kids than I can count piling on me in the pool and all of us alive with laughter and water dripping from our faces, jumping up and down with an unseasonable cool breeze making us cold as we climbed out. I'll remember Ellie making bank with her little lemonade stand, and I'll remember forever Sam's smile when he's showing off and sticks his tongue out under that mop of curls he rocked in the summer of 2017.
About 2:36 the light brightened on the edge of the cloud. Sam was running around with a ball, but Ellie, Alison and I were all together next to the wall. We're gonna see it, I said. Put your glasses on Ellie Bird. The street lights were on with everybody in the park holding their collective breath hoping to see the sun behind the shadow of the moon.
We did see it. It was beautiful, all of us together there in the park, collectively in awe with solar glasses on looking into the sky. A few tears streaked my cheeks as I thought of this amazing, unifying event and how all of those before us had viewed it. I imagined the fear it caused, and the amazement and questions that brought us to our understanding of an eclipse today.
For a moment I felt the shadows of life and was a little sad about the fleeting nature of it all, but as the streetlights began to kick off, and the day came alive again the promise of new days made me smile and remember my good fortune. Ellie is reading more and more. Sam knows 20 words, none of them swear words, and each day that goes by another memory is added, another photo for the album, and I can't help but to stand and marvel at the wonder of it all.