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Sheer Lunacy: Getting Up With Children to Watch an Eclipse

In the tender hours of today, I hoisted my head off a downy pillow, threw off warmed blankets, and sat up. What was I thinking? Why do I make difficult promises to keep?

Today’s promise was to wake certain kids so they could go outside to witness the total lunar eclipse and ensuing blood moon. It was the second major lunar event of four. We watched the eclipse and blood moon back in April, too. Smartypants folk are calling it a Tetrad, which means group of four. I would call it a Quartet if I were in charge of such things. Tetrad seems more dramatic, with an ominous tinge. Fantasy novels often have titles with words like Tetrad. I can make up a few easily:

Winged Lords of the Tetrad Doom

Revenge of the Tetrad Sword

Riders of the Flaming Tetrad Suns

Are You There God, It’s Me, Tetrad?

Archie had a rough night with incessant coughing. I got him up to give him honey and warm water, thinking he’d relax downstairs on the couch and fall asleep while the other kids went outside to moon-watch. I got him settled around 3:45 and went to wake older kids, who went to bed early in anticipation. The only ones who wanted nothing to do with it were the two oldest. This proves two things. With age, comes sense. With age, comes a lack of wonder.

Sam, Tommy, Joel, and Beatrix were happy and excited as they hunted for shoes in the dark. I had been outside on a short mission to determine the best location to watch the eclipse. I didn’t think it was cold. It felt exhilarating, in fact. I told the kids they probably wouldn’t need jackets and the poor kids believed me. We all forgot I’m a middle-aged woman and we overheat. The best viewing spot turned out to be at the end of our driveway, surrounded by the dark houses of neighbors. Before I opened the front door, I warned them all to be very, very quiet.

That’s when Archie began to howl indignantly. He wanted in on the blood moon action, too. I debated whether or not to let him join us. But, I remembered one of the treatments for croup coughs is cold night air. It could help his non-croupy cough, too, I reasoned. He found his shoes and we traipsed outside whispering.

At that point, the moon was about 50% obscured and not yet red. We traded Sam’s binoculars around as silently as possible, nudging each other. I helped Archie find the moon on his first turn. He gasped a “Wow!” and that set off a small coughing fit.

“Ssssshhhhhhhhh!” the kids hissed. I thought about certain busybody neighbors waking to the sound of a small child hacking outside at 4:00am and calling the cops to cry neglect. “It’s okay,” I told them. Their shushing was more annoying.

One by one, they returned to the house to put on jackets. Joel wrapped a blanket around his waist, too, which everyone said was a skirt. That nearly set him off until he saw my glowing laser beam eyes in the dark warning him any outburst would mean a one-way trip back to bed. The six of us watched the moon grow darker and darker. Archie coughed. Nobody dropped the binoculars. We talked more, but always in a whisper. They noticed the stars growing brighter as moonlight dimmed, identifying basic constellations. At one point, we heard someone down the street cough and then a flash go off. Appreciators of the wonders of astronomy, unite.

Somehow, I managed to keep the high spirits to a whisper as the moon grew rusty red. That lasted until one of the kids, who will remain anonymous, farted multiple times in rapid-fire succession. They burst out laughing, which killed the serenity of the majesty of the moment. Lunacy, indeed.

Because school was looming in a few short hours, I herded them back inside and had them return to bed for a bit more sleep. They protested they couldn’t possibly sleep. I could. I did, and well.

The last two dates of the Tetrad are April 4, 2015 and September 28, 2015. We plan to get up for those, too. I will remember to not make chili the meal before.

Today's lunch of leftover Ranch Chicken Chili was last night's pre-eclipse dinner.

Today’s lunch of leftover Ranch Chicken Chili was last night’s pre-eclipse dinner.

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