Years ago as a teenager in New England, I spent a Saturday night out with friends at a party in the woods just down the street from my family’s home. We did that in the 70s. All the time. We had the freedom to roam, the carefree belief that the dangers out there were not as great as they most likely were. Our parents didn’t pretend to know where we were at all times, though no doubt they really did know. Perhaps to keep their sanity, they chose to remain relatively oblivious. We didn’t have personal trackers willingly attached to us as our children do today.
Anyway, following the party on this particular night, I remember walking home with a friend. I remember the sky being filled with light, like the reflection of an indoor pool shimmering on the ceiling of the pool house. It was absolutely amazing and beautiful and surreal. And it was summer in August in New Hampshire. And I was a teenager doing what many teens in the 70s did.
Unlike my oldest brother, Marc, I did not know a lot about astronomy, physics or math. Unlike my brother, I never spent years polishing a piece of glass to make a telescope lens to better view the stars and the planets beyond our naked eyes. I wasn’t a fabulous student or an academic in any way.
In the late 1970s, I was having fun in high school, while Marc was in his mid twenties, floundering, struggling with events and circumstances I couldn’t even guess at. His mind, however, was in action, studying the planets, making his telescope, solving the world’s problems through mathematics I couldn’t comprehend. Or so I believed. He was also buying me beer, driving my friends and me when we needed a lift, and doing the dishes every single night. This is what was expected of him (except for the beer-buying part). That and to look for a job, and possibly, eventually, hopefully, to finish up the very few classes he needed to earn his degree.
On this particular night, I remember going into the house and asking my brother to come see the sky. As we admired the show, Marc talked to me about the Northern Lights and about the Perseid Showers. I remember that night and I remember the beauty and I remember my brother, and he and the Northern Lights are forever linked in my memory. Marc, the Northern Lights, our little house on Red Coat Lane and a time so very long ago when my imperfect and beautiful childhood family of seven shared time and space.