Apparent Magnitude: Negative 28, Brighter Than the Sun

By Tricia Theis

July 11, 2016

Apparent Magnitude: Negative 28, Brighter Than the Sun

We’re in church and the minister is reading a story about Maria Mitchell, America’s first female astronomer, when my son whispers, “When I grow up, if there’s a planet left that nobody has been to, I’m going to be the first person to step on it.”

I brush my hand through his flop of hair and push it out of his eyes. Leaning down to kiss the side of his head, I breathe in the smell of his scalp—sweaty, because I let him get away without a shower.

I say I love the idea. I think how heartbreaking and sublime, to be the mother of an astronaut. 

“But—” he begins.

He’s concentrating on his hands in his lap; his legs are criss-cross applesauce in his chair.

“I might have to be gone for, like, a year.”

He looks at me only peripherally; his expression is serious and shy. Measuring my reaction to his proclamation, he seeks comfort and permission at once.

I cup my hand around his head and pull his body towards me.

“I know,” I say.

His future departure is a presence that shimmers there between us. It sparkles like a firecracker—a glitter rocket whose fuse is only so long, the wick already ignited.


Photo, "Blast Off" provided by Centophobia via Flickr's Creative Common license.
Comments (7) - Post a Comment
I am touched and charmed.
Claudia Geagan at 8:18am EDT - July 11, 2016
I love how the imagery works together, and then that spark at the end!
Joanne at 9:17am EDT - July 11, 2016
Beautiful connection. A year away. He sounds like my grandson the paleontologist. Off you go. I'll be here when you get back.
Linda Gibson at 10:40am EDT - July 11, 2016
Lovely! I can't wait to see what he explores in his life.
Elizabeth at 11:19am EDT - July 11, 2016
This lovely short peace evokes powerful imagery and emotion. Tricia has a talent for highlighting small but powerful moments that could so easily be overlooked. Beautiful!
Alana McFall at 11:51am EDT - July 11, 2016
While reading, I found the word choices made this feel so...close. And tactile, visual, human scale.

Which is a 'frissoney' contrast with the astronaut-far-away-in-cold-space of a child's imagination.
Scott at 1:29pm EDT - July 11, 2016
so lovely. Thank you. Katherine
katherine soniat at 8:38pm EDT - July 11, 2016


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