Today I completed my 51st trip around the Sun. Even if I manage to stay healthy, I only have a couple of decades left, which, on an astronomical time-scale (make sure to check out my YouTube playlist of astronomy-themed songs), is vanishingly small. But I’m fine with that — I’m one extremely lucky dude. I have a fantastic family, a very fulfilling career (college physics & astronomy instructor), and a hobby (writing and performing science songs for kids) that I’ve managed to shoehorn into a side business.
My middle son celebrated his 12th birthday just two days before mine. He wanted to attend a Family Campout in Tupelo this past Friday night. Organized by Tupelo Park & Rec (thanks especially to Leigh Ann Kuykendall-Mattox) and held at Veteran’s Park, my boys and I have attended several of these in the past. With clear skies in the forecast, I decided to bring my telescope along so that I could share my knowledge and passion for astronomy with others.
I wasn’t the only adult looking to share interests with others. By the time we arrived at the campout, the Boy Scouts had set up a shooting range to introduce campers to target shooting. While shooting guns has never been my thing, I respect the folks who took the time and trouble to share their passion and information about gun safety with the kids. I like to borrow the Tim Minchin (one of my favorite singer/songwriter/musicians/comedians) line and encourage my own students (many, but not all, of whom are pre-service teachers) — “Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher.” Find a way to share your interest or passion with others.
After spending the evening doing a scavenger hunt (we placed second!), playing kickball and eating smores, my boys and I settled into our sleeping bags and told stories. I told the boys the story of my dad and Mount Greylock stew — a story that my dad told me when I was a boy about a skiing trip he took when he was a boy. It is my hope that, long after I’m gone, the experiences my boys have now will live on in their minds as memories that they will share with their own children.
Speaking of memories, I’ll fondly remember my 51st birthday. I got some really cool space-themed stuff, including a poster of space missions that will look dandy on my office wall and a custom coffee mug. I’m not sure if I originated the expression, “I like my coffee so black it has its own event horizon,” but I’ve wanted to have it emblazoned on a mug for some time. Thankfully, my sweet and thoughtful wife made that dream a reality this year.
For all my astronomy friends and fans — what would you think if I started to offer coffee mugs at my merch table for next tour? Summer 2022 is still a long way away, but time flies. Seems like only yesterday I was 50 . . . .