It was our dog who got up first. She had chosen, as we now call her custom, to go outside in the middle of the night to sniff at things and take care of her business. This is completely acceptable behavior compared to the alternatives, but we still end up grumbling in our groggy haze as we meander toward the door to let her out. Then it occurred to me: She was doing me a favor. This was the last night that the Perseid Meteor Shower would be easily visible in our night sky. For a change, there was no thick layer of fog obscuring our view of the heavens' wonders. I went back to our bedroom and reminded my sleepy wife.
"I'm going out to see if there are any meteors," I said as I pulled on my robe.
To this, my wife replied, "That's great! I'll be right out," though it sounded a little more like, "Grembplehmuhnuhfez." I took this as tacit approval and moved to the back porch. When I sat down and looked up, I had a familiar reaction: Where are all the meteors? I tend to expect more of a fireworks show, orchestrated to the sounds of today's pop music hits. Instead, I found myself staring into a charcoal gray pool of faint points of light. After a few moments, I shifted my chair to get a better view of the sky, less obstructed by the overhang of the roof of our house. This set off the security light, and suddenly I was sitting in the spotlight, unable to see much but the bright glare of the lamp that we had installed to keep bad guys out of our yard.
That's when I heard my son's voice. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for meteors," I replied in a low voice, "Could you please turn off the porch light?"
I heard his shuffling bare feet make the trip back inside, and the light was off again. Then I heard those same feet shuffle back out to the deck. "Oh yeah. There's meteors tonight." He sat down just behind me. He was followed abruptly, or as abruptly as we all move after midnight, by my wife. "Didja see any yet?"
I confessed that I had not, but I continued to stare. The three of us sat with our eyes on the sky for several more minutes before my wife whispered, "Didja see that one?"
I hadn't, but I felt encouraged. I looked harder. At this point, my son began to explain how tired he was of this whole ordeal, since he had spent hours volunteering at the local science center, moderating an activity called "Meteor Right, Meteor Wrong." He felt that he had been there and done that. For a while, the three of us whispered our dissatisfaction with the way that technology had made watching the night sky so much less of an adventure.
But still we persevered. I saw a few faint streaks. My wife and son both claimed to have seen "six or seven." That's when our dog showed up on the deck. She seemed confused by the appearance of her pack in the middle of her late-night sojourn. The four of us shifted briefly in our spots before I sat up and called it a night.
On the way inside, we congratulated ourselves on having the tenacity it took to get up and look for shooting stars. Except our dog. She went straight on in and found her bed. Family time was over. It was time to get some sleep.