Just after 1 AM I stand in the wet grass behind my aunt and uncle's suburban home south of Minneapolis. I'm scanning the sky for shooting stars. For five minutes, maybe more, I see nothing. The sky is hazy and almost purple. A bat swoops low and I duck.
Then, over my left shoulder, I see one. A flash of light. A pixel. I turn in that direction and stare hard. My neck hurts from looking up and I want to sit down but the lawn chairs are as wet as the grass and we leave tomorrow and my extra clothes are all packed and dirty besides. I stand and stare. I try to make my eyes wider, to take in more sky.
If I don't see a second one in a few minutes, I'll lie to my kids. I'll tell them I saw nothing. I'll let them think I did them a favor by letting them sleep. If I do see a second one, I may still lie to them. Two meteors in six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes. Is it worth it to wake them? I'm thinking most of my oldest. She's thirteen now, a milestone that occurred a few weeks ago but I failed to announce to the Internet mostly because I didn't want to send eighteen thousand replies to your "Good luck!" tweets. If I woke up the rest of the family, I didn't know which thirteen-year-old I'd get. Maybe the one that fits just under my shoulder who looks up at the sky with sleepy patience. Maybe the one who comes outside just long enough to feel her first mosquito, then storms back in and stabs her sisters with eye daggers tomorrow when they don't shut up about how many shooting stars they saw. Or the one that comes outside and lies about how many meteors she sees because everything's a contest. There are so many of her now.
I see a second meteor. I couldn't miss it. It crossed half the sky.
My kids have never seen a shooting star. We live twelve miles from Manhattan. Most nights, just seeing the moon is a cause for celebration. A little victory of nature over man.
I wake up the family.
We spread out two thick blankets on the wet grass. My parents are here vacationing with us, as well and the kids' great aunt. I wake them all up. We all lay down and stare.
The bat flies over again. "Batty!" calls the twin who doesn't give a damn that she sounds like she's four. She's closest to me and I roll over on the blanket to kiss her head. "I like batty!" she says again, a challenge to anyone to tell her to grow up. Nobody does.
Then a shooting star. My kids' first. And then their second. It's not what they expected. A quiet streak. Nothing like the movies. Blink and you miss it.
The thirteen-year-old doesn't blink. She pulls the edge of a blanket over her long, bare legs and doesn't blink.
Those two are the only ones we see. We say we'll stay outside until we see a third, but that third takes a long time to come, longer even once the Minnesota dew soaks through the blankets. I take my family inside and tuck them back into their vacation air mattresses strewn across their cousin's living room floor.
We've been here for two weeks. We leave tomorrow (today) to go back home, back to New Jersey. The Perseids are supposed to continue for one or two more days.
Maybe some will follow us back.