Wednesday, June 06, 2012

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you don’t have at least one astronomy-obsessed kid, you knew that yesterday Venus went between us and the sun. It won’t happen again for another 105 years. (Ella is sitting next to me making sure I get the facts right.)

We failed in our quest to have solar film delivered to the house in time to see the transit, which Ella has reminded me of about every 5 minutes since she found out that overnight shipping isn’t always overnight.

Anyway. There was an article in the paper about how the UT Astronomy Outreach group was sponsoring a transit viewing on the roof of one of the buildings on campus. Thinking it would be a great field trip, and remembering my resolution to actually get out and do things, I loaded my four into the car. Then the new neighbor, who isn’t actually a neighbor but is just housesitting and boy are we going to miss them when they leave, said that her oldest son had really wanted to go, but she just couldn’t get herself together, so she promised them barbecue for dinner. So I did what any sane, reasonable mom of four would do, I offered to take him with us. Because really, once you are dragging four kids, one of whom is still on crutches, on an insane adventure, what’s one more? For the record, he was the best behaved member of our group.

We made it in to UT with time to spare and hoped to find street parking near the building. There wasn’t any, so we had to park in a garage a few blocks away and then hike uphill. Poor Ella was struggling on her crutches and had to rest every few minutes.

I knew we were in trouble when we walked into the building and found ourselves at the back of the line just to get on an elevator to the top floor. And then it got worse. We got off the elevator into a packed hallway, where the lined doubled back on itself. Ours was the last group that was allowed to stay in the hall, everyone after that got herded into the stairwell, where the line went down multiple floors. If we had been five minutes later, we would have been in real trouble.

Fortunately, the kids, even the little ones, were really good, much better than I expected. I can’t say the same for some others in the hall. It was crowded and hot and humid, but there were interesting posters on the walls, and we saw some friends.

At one point, when the line doubled back next to a window, there was a volunteer with specially coated glass letting people look at the sun. I was amazed that we could see Venus, no magnification required. The distances and sizes just baffle me.

After more than an hour, we made it on to the roof, where we stood in more lines. The astronomy group did a good job, though. They had lots of volunteers and telescopes, plus binoculars with special filters, eclipse glasses, and a pinhole viewer. The kids kept busy and were able to see the transit several times.

Despite the lines and the heat and the crowds and the broken payment machine at the parking garage that wouldn’t let anyone out, it was worth the trip. Ella, Lily and the boy next door had a good time. Campbell and Elizabeth got P. Terry’s for dinner, so they considered it a successful trip.

And I get “Mother of the Year” award for making it all happen.


Runner Dude said...

You are an insane but great mom for taking the kids into town to see Venus transit the sun.

Ann in NJ said...

You TOTALLY get mother of the year! We didn't do anything, although in our defense it was pretty well overcast here so even if we had planned to go to s viewing, we would have been out of luck.

Unknown said...


ckh said...

Very cool! I tried to look at it with my naked but bespectacled eyes and couldn't see the tiny dot. Then I went online and watched it on webcast.

shrink on the couch said...

Mother of the Year is right! Rah for you! I had not heard about this UT opportunity and after reading all of your post I was able to replace my immediate feelings of "dang I missed that!" with "ok, maybe I'm glad I missed that." Though, not really. I would have loved to see Venus size relative to the sun. Astronomy is mind boggling at these moments.