all the kids

all the kids

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Magic Glasses

My brother was driving through town on his way to Connecticut (not anywhere on the way, by the way) but in his plan months ago was to be in Tennessee "for the eclipse," which I thought in my vague and foggy non-scientist way was too hippie and weird. We saw an eclipse in the 70's, it just got dark for awhile, who cares? It seemed crazy, too far away, to plan an entire trip around an hour of time where it just got a little dark.

A few days ago, Bruce, who is staying here with his hurt back, propped up on pillows and momentarily paused on his path to Oceanography PhD -- Bruce texts me "I ordered 5 pairs of eclipse glasses."

Hmm. So then the package came on Friday, and there are these flat solar glasses, like paper 3d glasses. And then Lilly's class is planning to do the eclipse viewing on Monday, and they have the glasses too. So now I'm thinking okay, I'm not gonna do the other things I had planned, I'm going to drag myself to her school for the first time this year to help the teacher wrangle the kids and see this eclipse.

We put the glasses on and there's a chip out of the sun.

It's amazing.

The kids are going in and out of the classroom every 15 minutes, to view and then record what they see by drawing the shape. They're also playing a video of a moon who is singing "Total solar eclipse" and the whole class is singing along. If you ever need to know how to celebrate something, stand with a group of 10 year olds. They will show you. Their enthusiasm just seeps into me.

So I have Bruce's glasses with me, and since they have extra at the school, I tell Lilly I'm going to take these back home so her dad and Bruce can see the eclipse.

I check out the sun as I'm going to my car, and it has a bigger bite out of it. I can't believe that there is a piece out of the sun. It looks like such a normal day.

I see a lady walking her dogs, probably the most annoying lady in the neighborhood. Tiny dogs, yappy lady. I pull over on the wrong side of the street because suddenly I have to say "Hey Louise you have to see this." Because this is not a normal day, because we are on a floating rock in the sky, and we are all in this together. She puts on the glasses and she's complaining about something and she's got that regular pinched look on her face and then suddenly she says hey WOW. You can really see it!

I'm almost home, and I see the guy walking his huge dogs that I always see, so I pass my street and try to catch up to him, but do a U turn and almost make the guy behind me crash. I feel bad about that driver who is just waiting in his white car, as I'm still turning, and the dog walker is passing by me oblivious, not knowing I'm trying to catch him, thinking I'm just a bad driver. Now I'm heading the wrong way from the dogwalker so I pull up to the white car expecting the other driver to be mad and he's not, and I say I'm sorry, I just wanted him to see the eclipse, but I missed him, did you see the eclipse??  The guy, a craggy looking Asian dude with a happy face takes the glasses I hand through my window and I tell him to look up. He's my first stranger, but I don't care. It's so exciting, we're earthlings.

He's gazing up and we chatter about how amazing it is and then I zoom off to catch the dog walker who weirdly is the only one who declines to look. Then I pass a guy next to a fixit phone pole truck holding some wires and say "Did you see it?" waving the glasses and he laughs and pats his shirt pocket and says "I have some!!"

Then I get home and look at the eclipse with Barry and Bruce, wandering out at 9:15 likes bugs from under rocks, and they look up and we see it changing, black over yellow, a bigger bite out of the sun. I tell them I'm running back to school, but now they have their glasses and I still have mine.

Back at Lilly's school, we go out again at 9:30 and see that the hole is getting bigger. We look at the Nasa cam in class, and see how it's looking in Oregon, and in Missouri. Where it's bigger and better. I point out where my brother is in Tennessee. It will get dark there, I say. For a little bit. Darn why didn't I think to travel there. Why?

At 10:19 when it's the peak, we go out with the class and it has gotten cooler, and shady from the eclipse, and the kids are curious, and stargazers, and artists who draw suns now, and most importantly they're looking up from where they are.

I tell Lilly I'm heading out, and on the way out of school there a group of moms on the steps and I make them look through the glasses. Even the one mom who is scared. I say it's okay. It's NASA, as I hand the glasses to her. Even the scared one looks. All of them can't believe what you can see.

I'm heading home but I can't head home. I call my friend Julia who I never see because of busy lives even though she's down the street. I say where are you. Want to see the eclipse? I have the glasses. She says she's kind of over it and I said yeah I thought that but you need to see these glasses. She's walking her dogs. I say I'll meet you at the feed store. Then I call Robert, our other dad neighborhood friend since preschool. I say you wanna see it? Do you have the glasses? Are you home?

I zoom over there, he comes out, he looks up. He is a scientist, and he is deeply happy. I zoom off to Julia and do a loop through the feed store, parking jaggedly. I see the guys who load up my hay each week. Three guys in feed store shirts by the enormous piles of hay and the forklift.

LOOK. I tell them. I make each of them look. I tell them I can't help it, look, quick! It's so cool. I go inside the feed store and make sure those girls in there have seen it. I come back out and there's a guy with a scraggly beard and leathery dark skin, a worker I haven't seen yet at the store. Have you seen the eclipse,  I show him the glasses. He says he hasn't. I make him take off his sunglasses and put on the glasses and he's standing by the baby chicks and he looks up at the sun and after he takes them off he is changed, and humble and says to his chest so quietly, "I never see this before in my life."

Then I know I only have a few more minutes really, for these glasses to be meaningful, where I can affect people, where afterwards, in about 15 minutes, they will just be paper and blackness.

I go back near Robert's because I saw guys putting tar down on the road in yellow vests, and I swing over there in my beat up mom van, and hang out the window "Hey did you guys see it?"

I hand the glasses to the first guy who stares up, and then the guy with the tar broom, and then the scrawny guy who turns off the tar machine and comes over to look. I am all their mother. Today.

I get three shining smiles.

I pass a gold chained dad and Armenian businessman son who look like they're on the cusp of an argument at the end of their driveway. There's a garbage truck heading toward me. I stop anyway, and I don't care if they're having an argument.  "You guys have to see this," I say. The dad looks perplexed, but the son comes over and soon they're passing the glasses to each other, both looking up and remarking at the extraordinary view.

Then I catch the same garbage truck I didn't have time to stop earlier, lumbering at me and I park weirdly and go up to his door after he unloads a container, and his door is like looking up at Pluto, it's so high up, but he has a big round face and I show him the glasses and say can you look?  He's so happy he gets out of the truck and sometimes you don't even know you're alive until you see the planets and the garbageman gets out of his truck to see it with you.

Then I pass a lady and her three year old. She puts the glasses on the kid first, and aims her chin up to look, because moms always show the little one before looking for themselves. It is nature. She says she tried to see it in the pool, but the water is wavy, she says. She looks up, her face open with wonder.

I pass the retired neighbor with the chocolate lab Charlie in his yard by the school. He says "I'm going in the tell the wife I saw the eclipse!" Happy like a kid.

There are two guys in reflective vests on opposite ends of another corner, measuring something the way they do with hardhats and that weird metal camera on a stick. I make the one guy look, and then he calls his corner buddy over to look. Everyone is so grateful, like when you get something unexpected in the mail. Because today can be different, because no matter what we're doing in the neighborhood, these four blocks I've managed to harass with the glasses, we're all floating on this rock in space, and we all, every one of us, are a bunch of kids, and we can't believe that we are that vulnerable.

The Aremenian dude from earlier is passing in a van and sees me with the reflective vest guys, and he hangs out the window. Hey can my friend see?? He says, motioning to the van driver, who is already getting out to check out the glasses and the sun.

I've passed almost everyone I can see, and I've really only done the same streets I've done for years, trick or treating, or biking to preschool, or riding up to the park. I'm heading home, and I pass a guy in a hat pruning his hedge with electric clippers. I pass him, but then I only have him left, the street is empty, there's still time. The chunk isn't quite out of the sun yet. I put it in reverse and back up trying not to hit trashcans because I'm a pretty bad backer. It's like when I'm going in reverse I suddenly can't drive. I get out of the car, and the guy I thought was a gardener is an old guy with thick glasses and the kind of skin you usually only see on the armpits of gentle old giraffes. Have you seen the eclipse? I say. He glances at the sky a bit and says Oh I've seen a little bit. On tv.
You want to look? I have the glasses. He looks like 100 year old Poppa, with his eyes a little bit lopsided, and all the furry wrinkles by his elbows.  Younger than Poppa, but older than Lou, my 84 year old boss. A good mix of the two of them.
Look, I say, it's really cool.
He puts his head toward the sun and holds the paper glasses over his own glasses.
Ohhhhhhhhh, he says.
It's almost done, I say. But it's still amazing.
I look at him looking, since I can't look up too, without the glasses. I imagine what he sees.
He is studying it, miraculous.
It's leaving us, he says.
Watching contentedly.
He hands me back the glasses as I chatter about being at the school, and driving around like an idiot.
He's smiling at me from his garden.
Bless you, babe, he says sweetly.

I drive back home on the empty streets, with the almost full sun looking down on me.