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About Magnificence in the Mundane

Bringing humor to the many challenges of parenting, driving a gigantic SUV full of smelly boys and their friends, letting go of the idea of perfection and tackling middle age all serve as my inspiration. We all have common experiences, I just share my take on the absurdity of every... Read more

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Summer 2017: Eclipsing Expectations

You know it’s serious when Savannah Guthrie opens The Today Show in a dress imprinted with clouds. It screamed, “Welcome to Solar Eclipse 2017 people…”

After weeks of learning more than I ever needed to know about burning my retinas and terms like “line of totality”, the big day was finally here. But could it possibly live up to all the hype?

I was feeling strong going in. I mean, I had equipped my oldest with certified, serial numbered glasses before he left for Columbia, South Carolina. The university had rearranged move-ins and classes around the Eclipse in anticipation of thousands of tourists coming to view it. South Carolina was the bulls-eye of the East Coast and my kid had a front row seat.

I was way more excited than he was about his good fortune. But, what did he know?

We were losing some of the cool factor here in Maryland. We were going to see a partial eclipse at best so we were focusing on the science of it. The whole concept of how and why this happens is fascinating. I still can’t explain it but I know awe-inspiring Bill Nye nature stuff when I see it.

Unfortunately, my real nature kid was going to be communing on a football field with his high school team so glasses were not an option. I think I played the video of the guy who ruined his eyes back in ’62 about 100 times because he was going to be outside. Even the team trainer tried to scare the bejeezus out of the boys at morning practice in a show of solidarity to moms of teenagers everywhere.

Thanks to a neighbor who placed a bulk order (Chris, I swear I will pay you as soon as I finish typing this), we all had glasses. My husband took a pair to work and promised to take a break for a few minutes and stand on the steamy asphalt to spy the wonder.

So, my youngest and I made a plan to meet neighbors at the middle school field up the street. No trees and plenty of room to camp out. We set up our chairs at 2:03 pm which was about 40 minutes from the peak coverage.

I am the fool who thought you could just slip on those glasses and stare at the sky and wait to ooh and ahh like you do for fireworks. Little did I know the glasses fight you every step of the way. Somehow they were flimsy and rigid all at the same time.

They were too rigid to bend around my ear and stay put but too flimsy to hold any shape whatsoever. If I moved more than an inch, they would slide off my face and the retina burning would commence. I have to admit though, for the small intervals when my glasses stayed on, the sun was better than any science thing I had ever experienced.

The crescent shape got smaller as the minutes ticked. We awaited all the conditions we had been prepped for: drop in temperature, partial darkness and the one we were least excited about— crazed animals charging towards us from the woods across the field.

We even had popcorn! So, from a distance; we looked like we were watching a really good 3-D movie. And we were!
And at 2:25 pm it happened— A HUGE BIG CLOUD ROLLED RIGHT OVER OUR SUN. It looked like nighttime alright through our glasses because there was no sign of the sun, the moon or anything but a giant dark cloud.

That’s ok, we thought, we have 15 whole minutes before we reach peak. Easy peasy. We took off our glasses and checked Facebook to give our craning necks a break. As usual, Facebook only made us feel worse about our current situation as pictures confirmed no one else had a cloud but us.

Oh, oh, wait here it comes, it was getting brighter again.

Boom.

I knew we wouldn’t get blanked from history. I grabbed one last handful of popcorn and wrangled with my glasses until they were secured.

Exactly two minutes later, at 2:34 pm, the sun disappeared again. Did I mention the rain? Yes siree, that is when it began to rain. So, we juggled the umbrella, the glasses, our phones and the popcorn ready for one last glimpse. However, it never came.

Our eclipse got clipped.

As we packed up our stuff (resisting the urge to stomp on those glasses) we were all pretty disappointed. I looked around at the folks taking their leave as well. An older couple, a father with his teen daughters with home-made viewing boxes and a group of women all shuffled off, heads down just like us.

We had to keep it in perspective even if we felt a little robbed, this was an event that traversed the country and united all demographics and that is no hype.

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Maureen Stiles

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen is the author of the blog Magnificence in the Mundane. You can read her monthly column at The Town Courier.

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