I turned the angle poise lamp on in my daughter’s bedroom. She looked at me intently. I had a miniature globe and half a cake in my hands.
“So, Meri,” I said. “The lamp is the sun. This globe is the earth and this round cake is the moon. What happens is that the earth goes around the sun and the moon goes around the earth.”
I tried cack-handedly to rotate the cake around the globe whilst moving the globe around the lamp.
“Sometimes, the moon comes in between the earth and the sun. When that happens, you get a shadow on the earth and that means that you can’t see the sun any more. That’s what an eclipse is and that is what is happening this Friday.” I looked at five year old Meri to see if she had understood what her fool of a father was prattling on about now.
Friday morning duly arrived and we set off for school. Parents were gathering excitedly in the school playground. The school had invited parents in to watch the eclipse with their children. There was a definite buzz in the playground and not from the children.
By around 9am we could clearly see a chunk of the sun was missing. Meri hopped excitedly next to me.
“It’s going, daddy, you can see it going.” She pointed at the sun.
“Do you know why that is Meri?” I asked, testing to see if any of my attempts at educating her had been successful.
“It’s because the moon comes in front of the sun!” she said excitedly.
“No,” I said, seeing an opportunity to goof around. “It’s because the chariot that carries the sun across the sky has had an accident.”
“Daddy!” she berated me. “You’re so silly!”
As we watched the sun became a golden sliver in the sky. The light dropped and took on a grey, purple hue. My hands felt cold. I tucked them into my pockets. I realised I could see my breath.
I looked at Meri: she was enraptured. The majesty and enormity of what she was witnessing writ large upon her face.
Life is full of special moments. There is little that can beat an eclipse. Indeed, I think there is only one thing better than watching an eclipse: watching your children watch an eclipse. An incredible experience enhanced and magnified by the simple virtue that you are a father.
After the sun started to re-establish control over the wayward moon, I pulled Meri to me.
“You realise Meri, that the next time you’ll see a total eclipse you’ll be 76 years old. Maybe you’ll watch it with your children and grandchildren.”
I paused, poignant and emotional. “Maybe when you watch it, you’ll spare a moment and think of me.”
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