I’m exhausted today. I went to bed at 11:00 last night, waiting up for Adrian, who had a business dinner. I set my alarm for 4:45 this morning and didn’t make it that long. As often happens when I’m waiting for an early alarm, I slept fitfully and woke throughout the night. Around 4:25 am I gave up, rose, and looked out the window.
Bingo! There it was, through a part in the clouds: the massive full moon, just waiting to be eclipsed.
Martin is a moon fanatic. He refers to his children’s books about the moon as his “research” and studies them thoroughly. He tracks the phases of the moon daily. Through his updates, I always know whether the gibbous moon is waxing, or waning. For week’s he’s been looking forward to this morning’s eclipse.
Because Martin was excited, I was excited. I did some research of my own and discovered that this morning was truly special. The total eclipse of the moon occurred simultaneously with the rising sun, an event called a “selenelion.” During a total lunar eclipse, the sun and earth and moon form a straight line. During this perfect alignment, it should be impossible to observe the rising sun. What we see from earth, however, is refracted by our own atmosphere. We begin to see the sun before it actually clears the horizon, and we continue seeing the moon, in all its eclipsed glory, after it has sunk.
From 4:30 until 5:30 am, while I prepared lunches and set bone broth to simmer, I monitored the moon every 15 minutes, waiting for the best opportunity to wake Martin. Unfortunately, the break in cloud cover was short-lived, and soon I tracked the moon only by the brightest spot amidst the clouds. Around 5:40 am that bright spot began to dip below the tree line surrounding our house, and I decided I’d have to wake Martin.
I expected him to be drowsy, maybe to take a look outside and fall back to sleep. That didn’t happen. As soon as I picked him up and whispered, “I’m going to show you the moon,” he woke fully and exclaimed, “We’re going to see the lunar eclipse!”
Thus commenced perhaps the most connected morning I’ve had with Martin in four years. Martin and I stood on the dark patio and peered through the trees, trying to catch the glow’s shift from white to reddish. Martin did not fret that we could hardly see the show. I Googled photos that others were taking of the moon, and he drew eclipse pictures on his whiteboard. We waited for the moment when the sun would appear to rise before the moon had set. When kept the inside lights dim in order to watch the sky brighten.
At 6:20 I asked Martin to wake Adrian. Martin scampered down the hall, yelling, “Daddy! Daddy! It’s time to get up,” Adrian asked what Martin had been doing so early, and then the two of them started discussing the eclipse. Then Martin ate breakfast in semi-darkness as he watched the sky slowly come to day.
Writing this, I realize that what made the eclipse special was not just the connection to Martin this morning. It was that I, who care nothing for the moon, had figured out how the eclipse would work and had taken the time to prepare our viewing. Through my child, I had become interested in something (besides autism!). Following my child, I had learned something.
Which is part of what parenting is about, right?