You can tell a lot about a person by peering into their childhood bedroom. Sunny yellow shelves filled with storybooks and stuffed animals towered above orange shag carpeting in the room that raised me. A built-in desk housed pencils and stationery and the latest scribblings of unfinished poems and stories. The window was perpetually open, allowing a steady breeze to drift in from the valley. On warm summer nights, I could be found listening to both kinds of music -- country and western -- surrounded by walls drenched in an odd blend of girly trinkets, pithy quotes and fighter jet posters. I wanted to be pretty and smart and a test pilot and marry Magnum, P.I., who I hoped would move stateside because NASA wasn't based in Hawaii.
For the love of all things aeronautical, I watched Star Trek, Star Wars -- even Star Search -- and the stars through my bedroom window. I sent letters to Houston and Houston sent letters to me -- big brown envelopes filled with photographs, flight manuals and crew patches. I just knew The Right Stuff would eventually find me.
"I don't understand why anyone would go to trouble of driving hours to the path of the total eclipse when you can see 93 percent of it right here in Bentonville," announced a lady in yoga class last week. "I mean, 93 percent is close enough."
Her words tumbled in my mind. Close enough? Would she be satisfied if her boss decided to pay her 93 percent of the hours she worked? Or her husband promised to be faithful 93 percent of the time? I'd lived through other eclipses, but I'd never seen one in totality. Close enough wasn't enough for me this time. I wanted that 7 percent.
I mapped my journey and called every hotel, motel, campsite and cot in the vicinity. Everything was taken, many a year in advance. Weather forecasts called for storms and cloudy skies. Traffic controllers warned of highway congestion.
Undeterred, my journey started before dawn Monday, heading northeast. It rained, and the skies were overcast for most of the trip. As traffic increased, I left the highways in search of backroads with big skies and fewer clouds. I pulled over in a cornfield beside a white farmhouse where an older lady was rocking on the front porch. The air was still, and the clouds broke right over the field. I donned my stylish NASA-approved eclipse glasses ... and looked up.
My name will never grace the halls of the space program. My feet will never step onto the surface of the moon. And it is quite likely I will not marry the pin-up of my youth. Although we may not realize every childhood dream, this week I lived my life in totality. I saw a daytime without sunlight; heard crickets and cicadas sing their confusion, thinking night had fallen; and felt the air cool drastically, then slowly heat up again. I smiled and scratched Baxter's ear, having boldly gone where I've not gone before. And it was worth every percent.
NAN Our Town on 08/24/2017
Print Headline: Worth every percent