It was just before 11 am on the day of the total solar eclipse. A quick rap at the front door let me know that my dad arrived. He engineered a viewing party of sorts, offering to take turns holding HP and glancing outside, so I could experience the eclipse. It was, after all, a once in a lifetime event.
Going on 11:30, more clouds rolled in. TV news anchors trilled on about how cloud coverage could limit visibility. The thousands of people stationed at viewing parties in Chicago and in southern Illinois bemoaned their bad luck, terrible timing, and grave misfortune on live TV. They were going to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Shortly after 12 pm, a sun’s ray peeked through the skylight. HP slumbered steadily, so my dad ducked outside, eclipse glasses in tow. With the cloud coverage still so dense, it was difficult to see anything other than black squares through the glasses. He challenged me to try. I handed off the baby, slid the awkward one-size-fits-no-one cardboard frames up the bridge of my nose, and stumbled out on the back porch. I couldn’t even tell where in the sky I was supposed to look let alone see the start of an eclipse.
Just before 1, my dad ducked out again. The clouds had parted. He informed me that he could, in fact, see the eclipse. Totality—or the 86% that we would see—was a mere 19 minutes away. No sooner than I looked at the clock to calculate the time did HP start to fuss. And fuss and fuss in a way that only he can do. He wailed for food. Feed me, feed me, feed me, his cries trumpeted. As I prepared a bottle, I knew with certainty that I would likely miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.
At 1:02, I scooped HP out of his chair with the same amount of impatience as he’d shown me. His cries faded as I watched him begin to gulp back his bottle. That’s when I realized that through all the media buzz and Internet hype, we’ve all missed something. Or at least I missed something. As intriguing as the solar eclipse was, as rare of an event as it is, it is no more once-in-a-lifetime than any other given day. And that’s what I’ve missed. That’s what we all miss, I’m afraid.
The mortgage payments we make, the credit cards that are paid in full each month, the small net worth hikes that won’t amount to much on a spreadsheet or graph. Those are quickly overlooked. Instead of celebrating small moments and savoring each day, we hold our applause. We wait and wait some more. We muddle through our days, hoping for excitement, waiting for the next milestone, the big celebration, the blog post title that is sure to go viral. That’s not to say that the grand moments, the eclipses don’t happen. They surely do.
At 1:18 pm, the moon crossed in front of the earth. The viewing conditions were far from perfect. According to the news stations that reported people leaving in droves, the conditions were downright disappointing. But when HP miraculously finished his bottle in a reasonable amount of time, I got to dash outside and see the darkened sun. It was a once in a lifetime event, and it was breathtaking. But so was the smile—surely more gas or reflex than actual reaction—that greeted me when I went back inside and scooped up my baby.
There will be hundreds upon thousands of baby smiles in my lifetime. I can’t say the same of eclipses. But each smile makes up a moment that will never happen again. Each smile is once in a lifetime.
So Tell Me…How will you make the once-in-a-lifetime event of today special?