The memories I have of that trip and what resulted from it are some of the most vivid from my childhood. Aside from the mouse and the scorpion, I also remember us going to the campground’s family activities that were offered that week. There was a kids’ water balloon fight, a nature walk through the woods, and most of all I remember my Mama letting me stay up late so that she could take me to an astronomy program. I don’t remember much about it, other than it was really dark, and the park ranger talked about meteor showers. I don’t think we actually saw any meteorites that night, but I do know that I came away from there with a strong desire to see one.
One night a few weeks after we returned home, Mama woke me up in the wee hours and told me we were going to watch some shooting stars. We went outside, sat down on the front sidewalk steps, craned our necks toward the sky, and began our vigil. When I think back on it, I’m amazed that she could even keep me awake. (I was a heavy sleeper back then!) Somehow, though, she did, and after who knows how long, we suddenly saw a brilliant streak of light cutting an arc through the blackness. Even though it lasted barely a second, Mama and I were breathless. Before long, we saw another one, and then another and another.
I don’t remember how long we sat out on the front walk that night or exactly how many shooting stars we spotted. But...I do remember the cool night air, the warmth of Mama's arm around me, and our excitement at seeing those glowing fireballs, as we sat there riveted to the night sky. That experience, the first of many nights of stargazing with Mama, filled me with an awe for God’s creation that nothing in any science textbook or lecture ever did in the years since.
It's important for me to mention here that my Mother is not the outdoors type. She does keep a birdfeeder by her window and enjoys watching her visitors there, but that’s about as close to nature as she likes to be. After our camping trip, she could have forgotten about the astronomy program. She could have ignored my budding interest in stargazing, but instead she chose to put aside her own preferences and fan the flame of learning in me.
This was neither the first nor the last time that Mama encouraged me and joined me in learning more about my interests. She did the same thing with literature and history and geography. In fact, we now often joke that she was homeschooling without even realizing it. Because she took the time for us to discover things together, she made a lifelong learner out of me. To this day, I oftentimes find myself looking up answers to my questions, especially questions about God and His beautiful creation. I love to explore nature, and I still can't get enough of God's awesome night sky.
A few months ago I did some stargazing with my own children. They were ecstatic at the idea of staying up hours past their bedtime to see a lunar eclipse, and they watched it with great anticipation. Now, months later, they still talk about that eclipse. That night was the beginning of a steady stream of celestial questions that hasn't stopped.
What an incredible privilege and opportunity we have to ignite in our kids an appreciation for God's handiwork and to nurture in them a desire to know more of Him and His ways. My Mama seized that opportunity, even without the advantage of homeschooling. I pray that each day - yes, even on the difficult days - I'll seize it as well.