Stargazing with Liam


It’s the little things, as they say.
This month my son has an ongoing homework assignment to track the stars. He has a little notebook which he carries with him to the park near our house. He brings along a pencil, stares for a bit at the heavens, marks things into his book, then returns home to add details with colored pencils.
I knew about this but wouldn’t have really been part of it if my husband hadn’t been out of town last week. Usually, it is my husband who goes with him. I’ve been totally fine with that, especially since star gazing sometimes means getting up at five am. But last week my husband was out of town and so I accompanied Liam to the park three different times within a twelve hour span.
It was unseasonably cold in Sacramento. We went out the first time and saw the rising stars in the east. Lit up Christmas trees could be seen through neighbors’ windows; the air smelled of people celebrating a new California law. A man walked by with his dog. The next time it was colder. I wore my puffy jacket and Ugg boots, and our breath came out like smoke. The stars had risen a bit higher in the sky. Liam pointed out The Big Dipper and Cassiopeia and the Milky Way. I told him I was grateful to be out with him on a cold December night, staring at the sky. “Everyone should stare at the sky,” he said. In the morning the alarm woke us. We bundled up and stumbled sleep-drunk into the street. Now everything was blanketed in frost. Our breaths seemed to crystalize. I know someone in Chicago or Detroit would laugh at me, but the cold went straight through the puffy jacket I bought years ago in Ireland, and I shivered maniacally. We laughed about my uncontrollable shivering. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said, and I protested, happy. This was such a gift. These are the things our ancestors remembered were important. It made me grateful too. It was one thing to be shivering in the park, knowing that in ten minutes I would be back inside my warm house. I know there are those who do not have such a luxury, and my heart breaks. I think I would want to die. I don’t know what to do with these insights, I just know that I am grateful to that snowflake of a night.