Lunar eclipse of 2011 with infant

photo by matthewwu88


December 10, 2011 – Bernal Heights
Josephine woke up at 6 am this morning and was snuffling snotily. She still hasn’t gotten over her cold. I remembered that there was supposed to be an eclipse that morning and I grabbed my computer to see what time it was. Beth looked at my laptop with appalled dismay as if it was a goat or something I was hauling into bed.
“What are you doing?
I shouldn’t torment her when she’s in this fuzzy sleep state, but I can’t help myself.
“I just thought I’d watch some videos from the internet.”
“Oh. Um. Nate? As long as you are up, would you take the baby?”
“Of course I’ll take her, I was just checking to see what time the eclipse was.”
Somewhat later:
“Do you think you can make sure she doesn’t get cold?”
“Unfortunately no.”
“She’s just a baby! She has trouble staying warm.”
“I’ll find a nice warm dog to slice open like a Tonton.”
“A little hypothermia never hurt anyone.”
“Do you think you can zip your jacket around her in the carrier?” (This is what we do almost every day when we go out – it’s a big parka and Beth borrows it because it can fit over Jo).
“No can do. The jacket is way to small this morning.”
“Thank you so much for taking her.”
So we trundled up the hill. I thought it was a solar eclipse so I’m hoofing to the top to get the view to the east. But on Prospect Street, I turned my head and there it was over Twin Peaks, the swollen harvest moon, dusky in the earth’s shadow. I stood there a while, confused. I suppose Beth wasn’t the only one who was hazy. My mind was stubbornly fixed on the idea that the moon was blocking the sun. And the sun rose in the east right? Right. And I was looking, what, west? Yeah, west, the Pacific Ocean lay just beyond that ridge. So what was going on?
Eventually I figured it out. Josephine was looking around, wide eyed, her tiny lips pursed in a little ‘Oh,’ but she does that whenever we go outside. A woman had stepped out of her front door to look and we said good morning. I walked up the steps.
At the top of the hill a man heard Jo cooing from within my jacket (I’d zipped it up over her head), and his face was immediately transformed by a smile. “Oh there’s a little shnorkums!” The combination of a common focal point (the moon) and cuteness (the baby) was social magic. When I unzipped my parka a young couple nearby broke their embrace. “I was wondering if there was a baby in there,” the woman said. “So cute! Do you want some tea?” The man lifted a samovar and she poured me a cup. “First lunar eclipse?” quipped another neighbor.
Josephine exercised her vocal chords, making long strings of vowels which started like a gurgling cry of distress but evolved to a more meditative tone, as if she were saying, “This! … oorrr, that may-be…” She lifted her eyebrows, her forehead wrinkling.
Another woman with a rambunctious puppy approached and asked if Josephine could see the moon.
“I have no idea,” I said. “I think her sight is pretty good by now. And she seemed to be howling. Which is, I don’t know, sort of associated with moons?”
But of course the sea of San Francisco lights below us, the bouncing black puppy, the cool morning wind on her cheeks, the sunrise—smearing up the opposite sky—all these things would doubtless be just as miraculous to Josephine as this massive eclipse. That’s the nice thing about babies and eclipses—the world under their strange light can be reenchanted with wonder.

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