“Look now.” He stepped away for the telescope and gestured that it was my turn. “Do you see the craters?”
My brothers were off playing in one of the dark corners of the backyard. I pulled my sweater tighter as I leaned in, holding my breath.
There it was.
Like in the books at the library, all of the glorious details were right there. All of the sleepiness that had been folding its arms around me faded away in the excitement of the moment.
“Be careful. Don’t put you eye on the eyepiece.”
I looked again.
An hour later I was looking at the red spot on Jupiter. Some of the moons were even visible.
At some point in the night I saw Saturn’s rings.
All told, my actual viewing time was under 20 minutes (It was a challenge to line up tiny bodies of light in a large telescope…), but those 20 minutes were some of the most profound of my life. They have stuck with me, vividly, for the past 30 years. Other memories fade. This one does not.
I asked my father to pull it out again on multiple occasions but he never did. I could not understand that. Why buy this thing of you did not intend to use it? What was the point of that?
It was a huge Celestron 8in schmidt-cassegrain telescope with a bright orange case, and it had a motor that kept it moving with the Earth’s rotation. We might not have had enough to eat sometimes, but by golly we had a giant telescope packed away in a trunk somewhere and knowing that made me feel special. Who else had seen these things in their own backyard observatory? No one that I knew.
Three weeks ago, my father gave me the telescope. Last night the clouds finally rolled away and I was able to let my son see the moon through it for the first time.
The moon hasn’t changed a bit.
Watching his face gave me more joy than what I had felt at seeing the moon for the first time myself. I didn’t know that was possible…