“Mom, come on!”

My son Brooks was running to the window of my third-floor bedroom in Baltimore, cardboard glasses pressed tightly to his face. He climbed onto the arm of my ancient recliner, carefully positioning the blacked-out lenses on his little nose as he gazed cautiously into the darkening sky.

“Get your glasses! Get your glasses!” he trilled, instructing me precisely where to look to catch the progression of this week’s rare total solar eclipse, in which the sun was blocked completely by the moon. Here in Baltimore, we only saw an 80-90% blockage, but the effect of this unexpected interlude with my kid was complete totality.

This total solar eclipse, which lit the internet ablaze with viewing guides, facts, hype and myriad Bonnie Tyler references, is a rarity. The next one likely won’t be visible in North America until 2044, and the path of totality will be visible in the U.S. from just Montana and North and South Dakota, places I can’t see flying to for a couple of hours.

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That made this week’s celestial event all the more precious, because my chance of recreating my family’s perfect eclipse moment will be affected by a factor that can’t be overcome with the purchase of a plane ticket — time. In 2044, I will be nearly 73 years old, and my current fourth-grader will be pushing 31. Even if we’re living in the same state by that time, he might have his own family, his own job, his own interests. And as sweet as it might be, watching the eclipse with his mommy might not rate.

The older Brooks gets, the more life stages I have to marvel at, with the profound understanding that they are impermanent and fleeting. And they will never come back. At the beginning of this school year, I mused over the realization that with each grade, each level in soccer and each shoe size, my little one is no longer little. And at each of those stages, he’s in some ways a different person. I love every one of them, but it’s heartbreaking knowing that each metamorphosis will shed some part of that person I love.

So it was a fortunate coincidence of spring colds and science that on Monday, Brooks woke up with a cough, fever and a stuffy nose. Once we ruled out COVID, I decided that he could stay home and rest. But his little brow furrowed.

“What about the eclipse?” he coughed, reminding me that his school was giving each kid those glasses with which they could watch the beginning of the event, scheduled to start right before dismissal, without damaging their little eyes. I hadn’t planned to watch it myself, but suddenly the importance of sharing this phenomenon with my little phlegmy sweetheart came into release as the eclipse itself.

A few hours and one much-needed boy nap later, armed with two pairs of glasses hand-delivered by my son’s amazing principal, we headed up to my room. The entire event was scheduled to last about 2 ½ hours, and at first I thought I’d be able to sit on my bed and work while Brooks updated me on the sun’s progressive journey from a perfect circle to a form “that looks like Pac-Man!” he gleefully reported.

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But as soon as I sat down, I was being summoned to the window, and the kid’s excitement was growing as fast as the sun’s ghostly image seemed to be disappearing through our glasses. After the third observation trip, craning my neck to line up my eyes with the sun and testing the elasticity of these 52-year-old knees, Brooks grabbed my hand.

“Let’s go to the patio!” he said. As much writing as I had to do, with two columns and the final edits of the novel I recently sold all due this week, it dawned on me that I would never relive this moment. This child, almost a tween, will probably want to spend less and less time with me. So when he’s holding out his hand, inviting me to witness history with him, I couldn’t resist. Laptop down, glasses up.

As we watched Pac-Man become an increasingly small pizza pie, my excitement for the eclipse grew. Brooks went outside to share his glasses with friends, constantly coming back to our patio to make sure I was still paying attention. And I was, sipping a glass of tea while making up dumb-clever “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” parodies on social media: “Once upon a time there was sun in my life, but now there’s only moon and the dark.” I said it was dumb!

For a small period, I was connected with the world in real time about a thing that we were all sharing, and it made that world smaller, less chaotic. Of course, moments like that can be when the aliens lure you to rooftops and zap you into oblivion, but no intergalactic peril befell us. Instead, there was a moment of connection, of quiet. Brooks even called an older relative to make sure they were following along on CNN.

“Because you’re afraid I won’t be here to see the next one?” they asked, wistfully.

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“Well, yeah,” he said softly, and I think the undeniable nature of time and mommies started to dawn on him. I don’t want this to be a sad thing, but we’re not promised the next eclipse. We’re not promised anything but these little moments of togetherness and wonder.

And unlike the sun, that’s a truth I can see clearly.

Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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