13 years, 3 months and 24 days ago my very first paid writing gig appeared on page 35 of section A in The Dallas Morning News. I felt lucky then and still do because I had no idea what I was doing when I faxed my essay to an editor’s number I found in the newspaper a few days prior to that. I had captured a wonderful family experience in words and simply wanted to share it with others. I was doubly surprised when the editor told me she wanted to run it and that I would get paid. When I deposited that check, I held back a crisp dollar bill that I plan to frame someday. In the meantime, I’ve chosen this lucky day (Saint Patrick’s Day) to post my first ever paid-to-be-published piece here, blasting it into cyberspace amidst the dust of comets and stars and words that live forever.
The 4th of July in November
The Dallas Morning News, November 23, 2002
Until Monday, I would have thought Tempel-Tuttle was the name of a Fort Worth suburb. Then, I saw a newspaper article about a meteor shower expected about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. Comet Tempel-Tuttle’s dust, actually deposited in space long ago, was to produce a spectacular show on the Creator’s own giant screen as the Earth passed through it.
My sister and. I made plans to see the phenomenon. We set our alarm clocks and invited our children to join us. The girls – my 8- year-old daughter and 11-year-old niece – woke up on the first call. The boys – my 11- and 13-year-old sons – required a bit more prodding: “So sorry you don’t want to wake up to see this. I will tell you all about it later.” Soon, I heard groggy voices call out, “Mom, wait.”
Pulling sweats over pajamas and gathering a few jackets and a blanket, we loaded in the car and went in search of the “best seats in the house” – a place with little or no overhead lights. By about 4:30 a.m., we were in a parking lot at Lake Lewisville. We spread out our blanket, snuggled close for warmth and joined the show in progress.
It was the Fourth of July in November! The children pointed in all directions as bursts of yellowish-white light appeared like exclamation points in the sky, disappearing in the blink of an eye. “Wow! Did you see that one?” “Oh, my gosh, look at that!” “There’s another … and another … and … oh, that one was really big!”
Between the bursts of light, I shared some recently learned space trivia. “What we are watching are Leonids. They are from the dust of a comet called something like Tootle-Tickle (by this time, I had forgotten the name).” The kids were intrigued when I told them about a housewife who was bruised by a meteor that crashed through her house in 1954.
After about 30 minutes of gazing skyward and freezing outward, we decided to return home. My husband, who had stayed back with our sleeping baby, told us that not only was the sky show still on, it could be viewed from our front yard. So, this time with more blankets and a cup of Dad’s hot chocolate, we gathered again under the falling stars. We laughed about not considering this spot in the first place, but we also agreed that our earlier trek was merely another part of our fantastic pre-dawn adventure.
One of my sons kept telling me how glad he was that he woke up, saying he wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for the world. Me neither, for it is times like these that, in fact, make my world.
The next time I hear anything about Tempel-Tuttle, I will know it isn’t a suburb. I will recall it was the star of one of the best shows my family ever has seen.