It was a few winters ago, and my son and a cousin were getting up early for a hunt. Adam arose in his upstairs bedroom, and stepped out on the balcony to check the weather. As he stood admiring the stars and trying to assess wind direction and temperature, he suddenly was aware of a Presence nearby.
He stepped to the edge of the balcony next to the low roof of the house. At the same point where the south side of the balcony meets the low roof over the garage and back porch, the steeply-pitched upper roof joins the low roof. In the shadow of that high roof, he discerned a darker shape, and bent cautiously for a closer look.
“Want some coffee?” I asked.
“You can use my cup,” his mother offered.
It was obvious that the boy was confused, when he realized that his parents were lying on the roof an hour before daylight on a cold winter’s morn. “What the heck are y’all doing up here?” he asked, followed quickly by, “Or maybe I don’t want to know!”
“Watching the meteor showers,” Betsy and I responded. She again offered him some coffee. He just shook his head and went back inside to wake up Cuz and bring him out to observe his crazy parents.
It was the occasion of the Leonid Meteor Shower, advertised to be one of the best in our lifetime. Only problem was, the peak of it was about four in the morning. Yet we both decided when we hit the hay about eleven that if it was clear, we’d get up to watch the shooting stars, which we’ve done often before from the roof. Usually, though, they have showered during warm weather, when the main problem is mosquitoes, not clouds. I was to be the scout, in charge of getting up and seeing if the weather was going to be clear or cloudy.
It was clear when I arose at 3:30 a.m. I headed to the kitchen to boil water for coffee, then found my thermos bottle and filled it with hot tap water to be ready to keep our coffee hot. I make the old-style boiled coffee, with the grounds in the bottom of the pot, some of which pour out into the cup, so that you dare not drink the last swallow, unless you want to chew it. Betsy says my coffee is “Good to the last bite!”
Made coffee, filled the thermos, grabbed two travel cups Mr. Hurry gave us for Christmas one year, and took them up the outside staircase to the low roof, along with a basket of apple muffins Betsy had made up. Then I snagged a big foam pad and a large 2-for-1 sleeping bag, plus two pillows, and arranged them so that we could lie on the low roof, with our heads propped against the steep roof to watch shooting stars. Only when the stage was set did I wake my sleeping bride. She slipped on warm-ups and socks, picked up a quilt from the bed, and we hiked up the outside stairs. As she snuggled into the sleeping bag and arranged the quilt, I poured our coffee and slipped into the sleeping bag beside her. She passed me an apple muffin just as a light flashed over us that I initially mistook for a flashbulb. It wasn’t. It was a meteor!
We lay there on the roof until sunup, disturbed only by Adam and Cuz. During those couple of hours, we saw several hundred shooting stars, many just brief pinpricks of light. Some, however, curved halfway across the heavens before burning out. Many times, a half-dozen were in sight at once. Just before dawn, after the hunters departed, we saw what must have been a satellite speeding over from north to south. It was a great way to start the day.
While we lay there snuggled together, drinking coffee and eating muffins, we also heard two coyote packs, one coming by right across the Mammy Grudge, less than a hundred yards away. The red wolf howled for a few moments, seemingly in answer to one of the coyote packs. A barred owl hooted almost angrily at the close pack, and as the eastern sky began to pinken, a pair of screech owls sounded off from the ditchbank.
We almost hated to leave our bedding to get ready for early choir and Sunday School, but the show was over once the sun came up, of course. I had to make a second pot of coffee. As I poured a cup, I thanked God for the show. What a morning!