There must be something in the stars tonight. I'm vacationing with my wife and six children on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Midnight tonight just so happens to be the best time all year to watch the annual Perseid meteor shower and what better place to watch a meteor shower than at the beach?
It brings to mind another Perseid shower thirteen Augusts ago when my then ten-year-old son Chris and I were spending the night on a lake in Maine. We were on a guided canoe trip with a handful of fellow alumni from my alma mater Williams College--mostly adults and a couple of teens. I'll never forget lying along the lakeshore beside the overturned canoes that night, the chill of the Maine August closing in around us like a cloak while we all stared skyward in wonderment.
That's not the memory that brings a smile to my face, however. What I remember more than anything else is the image of my precocious son, by far the youngest on the trip, regaling us adults with his extensive knowledge of the solar system and planets, and, of course, meteor showers. "Did you know," he nodded sage-like, "that on average ten people are killed or injured every year by falling meteors or meteor particles?" No, we didn't know that. "It's true," he assured us. We were duly impressed.
Therein began a serious discussion among the adults about the potential dangers posed by such falling objects and how most of the poor individuals who died must be off in Siberia or Africa or some other far-flung place. This was an educated group, mind you, although there were no actual scientists or astronomers among us. The discussion went on for a couple of minutes until my son finally leaned over and whispered in my ear. "Dad," he said, smiling. "I made that part up!"
Everyone laughed, of course, when Chris's ruse was revealed and no one thought the worse of him. In fact, we marveled at how easily we'd all been taken in by a bright ten-year-old. Since then, I've often thought about that night and what it means to tell a good story. Was it just our naivete, the right combination of circumstance and imagination?
There's magic in storytelling, I have no doubt. Or maybe it really is just something in the stars.