Who Knows What’s in the Stars

Posted August 18, 2012

Living in a metropolitan area like Washington, D.C., doesn’t allow you to appreciate the stars in quite the same way as, say, the far western end of Kentucky. In fact, the best way to take in the stars is lying in the bed of a truck in pitch darkness in the small hours of the night.

My son, Chris, was accepted to Murray State University in very-small-town Murray, Ky. With a limited budget, we packed up the car and drove to a campsite in Tennessee, splitting the 14-hour drive in half. Having spent a couple of nights recently camping in the Shenandoah, this campsite was the noisiest I’ve ever experienced – adding to the trucks driving in and out and the voices of what I assumed were new arrivals (at 10:30 p.m.),  we were not too far from a train track with regular service. I didn’t rest so well, but was glad for the clean bathrooms.

Murray is a quaint city. While Chris spent time with friends before starting band camp (he’ll play cymbals in the marching band), I took in the sites downtown. It took me about 10 minutes to check out the farmer’s market on the Court Square – granted, at the time, I was in search of a cup of coffee and not in the market for fresh vegetables. I spotted a bakery and envisioned relaxing with a coffee and a fresh-baked pastry. This, however, was more of a catering bakery and not set up for visitors seeking breakfast. One of the young ladies came out from the back and directed me to a Christian bookstore diagonally across the square. Hmmm. The New Life Christian Bookstore offered a wonderful cappuccino and an apple and cinnamon muffin in a lovely little café downstairs, furnished with comfy couches. What a surprising delight!

Murray State’s campus is quite lovely, with remodeled dorms and facilities in brick. Reminded me a bit of a smaller University of Maryland. We stayed with one of Chris’s friends, whose mom was gracious enough to open her home to us, feed us and drive us out to a nearby lake in the middle of the night to see a meteor shower. Tore, Chris’s friend, and her mom, Lauralee, were awesome! Real good people, who made me feel good about leaving Chris in this small Kentucky town I’d never even heard of before he applied to the school. Lauralee said Chris was welcome any time he wanted a home-cooked meal. That made me smile.

On Saturday night (or Sunday morning, really), the four of us – me, Chris, Tore and Lauralee – spread out in the bed of Lauralee’s truck with blankets and hot drinks somewhere past midnight. We chatted and giggled and cheered each time we saw a meteor bound across the black sky. The Perseid meteor shower was more of a sporadic drip – the peak viewing time was just before sunrise, so we were perhaps seeing the spurt before the full gush. Nonetheless, the screen above us was simply beautiful. The stars were dense, countless, and the Milky Way galaxy was amazingly clear.

I drove the 14 hours home the next day. I woke up early and kissed a still half-asleep Chris goodbye, uncertain when I’d see him again – unsure of what the road ahead would hold for either of us. I was glad to see him moving forward. His summer had been spent mostly on his computer, waiting for the acceptance letter from Murray. The previous year had been choppy – a couple of semesters at the local community college and a few months spent with his dad in Southwest Virginia. The spurt, perhaps, before the full gush. Now, he is bounding forward on a path as unknown as the mass of stars above us. And from all these miles away, I will cheer him on as his light makes a way through the sky.