I’m standing on our front walk, shivering in the night air, dressed only in my nightie. I’m waiting for the dog to say his final goodnight to the yard, a process that involves sniffing every bush and marking his property repeatedly. Like most things with dogs and small children and the elderly, the ritual takes the time it takes, and there’s no use rushing it.
It’s very dark and very late and I look up, searching the night sky. It doesn’t disappoint. The stars are out in full force, sparkling and shining and scattered abundantly across the sky, and I am deeply calmed by the sight of them. My shoulders drop, my breathing deepens, and I forget about the dog.
When I was eleven, Halley’s Comet streaked into the sky, captivating headlines and science teachers and little girls and their daddies. My father and I stood out in a field well past my bedtime staring at the fuzzy white speck of light, and I remember him telling me I’d see it again as an 86 year-old woman, long after he was gone.
The idea of a comet returning like clockwork every 75 years was both mind-boggling and weirdly comforting. I loved the predictability of it, the anticipation of its return even as we lose sight of it. We moved often when I was a kid, and everything always seemed new and different. I loved the idea that no matter what happened in my little life or on this planet, in 75 years that speck of light would be back, shining down on a little girl and her daddy in a field at night.
The night sky became a touchstone for me; a constant in all the change in my life. As we moved houses and hemispheres, looking up at the inky blackness became a new-house ritual for me, a coming home no matter what new room my bed occupied.
The night sky, with its stars and comets and galaxies, still soothes me. Its contents are far bigger than I am, its history longer, and its rhythm totally unaffected by my comings and goings, my fears and hopes. In all the change I’ve faced as an adult, it has been a continued source of peace.
Some nights, in the middle of the messy stickiness of this life I forget to look up. Sometimes clouds obscure my view, and like a baby playing peek-a-boo, I forget the stars are there. Some nights, try as I might, my thoughts tug urgently at the corners of my mind, bringing me back to deadlines and unpacked lunches and appointments I’ve forgotten to schedule and the calm I need so desperately slips through my fingers.
But it’s always there. Even in the daytime, as I drive carpool and return phone calls and run impossibly late for all things, the stars and the sky are still there, exactly as they are at night.
I just have to work harder to see them.
Lately, I’m extending that effort beyond the sky.
I’m noticing Amy and Lottie, heads bent together over a shared book as they wait for their hair to dry after their showers. I’m watching Sara’s face as Simon walks through the door unexpectedly, and see her happy to share some bonus time with her bonus brother. I see Jack’s frustration bubble to the surface and watch him channel it differently, offering to walk the dog instead of slamming his door. I watch Gabe talk to Caden, as they comfortably clean the kitchen after dinner.
It’s easy to forget that these moments exist.
I get distracted by the noise of blended family life: the schedules and the agreements and the not-quite-rights. The disappointments sometimes cloud my view. But just like the stars in the night sky, these moments exist.
The relationships created in this family will long outlast me. The memories we make together will shine with a patina I can’t yet understand. The six people Gabe and I are raising together will go out into the world strengthened by a story enmeshed with the stories of their siblings and parents.
Just like the night sky, that legacy is unaffected by the daily comings and goings. Just like the night sky, that story is far greater than a long day or a tough conversation. And just like the night sky, that promise calms and centers me.
Feeling tossed and turned by this blended family adventure? Look up. Look around. The stars are everywhere.