Memory Lane: Best Date Ever

Dan and I started dating in October of 1999.

In November, he asked if I wanted to go see the Leonids meteor shower. Having never seen a meteor shower before, I decided that would be cool.

I suppose I have a layperson’s fascination with the night sky. I can point out a few constellations; I can tell shiny planets from twinkling stars; I love to watch the waxing and waning of the moon. I even have a favorite moon phase, the waxing crescent. I have it tattooed on my arm.

At the time that we were going to see the Leonids meteor shower, Jupiter and Saturn were closest to the Earth than they had been in decades. You could pick them out in the night sky because they were so bright, but if you had a telescope, you’d get a really good look at them.

Dan and I made plans to travel out to Wagman Observatory to see what we could see. Dan packed a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine. He already knew the way to my heart.

The first thing we did was to walk over to the large telescope. Someone from the observatory was there to make sure it was pointed the right way in the sky to view Jupiter and Saturn. I wanted to see them.

I looked at Saturn first. I don’t know when you were in Earth-Science classes, but I was a ’70s baby, so we’re talking mid-late 1980s. You know when you learned about the planets, the pictures they had in your text books? Not the high-definition, digital images that are out there now. We’re talking Kodachrome, here. Flat. Muted colors.

Well, that’s how Saturn looked — it was cool, don’t get me wrong — very two-dimensional, like someone had cut it out and hung it up in space. I had a funny reaction — like, “hey, it really does have rings around it! And you can see them!” It was weird, I guess, to look at something I had learned about, but not really internalized.

Or I’m just weird. Take your pick.

Then we walked back to the blanket and settled in. A full moon was going to make viewing the meteor shower a little difficult, but not impossible. We drank wine and held hands, and stared at the sky waiting to see stars start falling.

And then, a meteor went right over our heads. And I don’t mean a shooting star far away up in the sky. A ball of flame went streaking right over us. It was amazing, intense, stunning.

I don’t remember who said, “Make a wish,” me or Dan. I honestly don’t recall. But I know that we were kissing each other next.

Wishes do come true.

What was your best date? What would you wish on a shooting star now?