Star Struck

I am a city girl at heart.  I grew up fifty miles from New York City, and since my father grew up in the City and his parents still lived there when my brother and I were young, our family drove to New York nearly every other Sunday after church.  My mother would read the paper, and by the time we pulled into our parking spot on E. 98th Street, she had finished the last page.  My dad would take us to the Guggenheim or the Museum of Natural History.  On blustery winter days, he would buy us hot chestnuts from a street vendor, not to eat, but to put in our pockets to keep our hands warm.  A city boy trick. One of my favorite places was the Hayden Planetarium.  I loved learning about the planets and the stars.  I was fascinated to learn some of those objects we take for stars are really just pin dots of light from stars long dead, such is the vastness of the universe and the speed of light.

But, as I said, I am a city girl, and city people don’t really know what it is to look at the stars.  When I read the weather page Saturday morning, I saw something unusual.  The night time forecast showed that it would be so clear that the stars would be visible. 

I don’t remember seeing those star symbols used; I usually see a prediction of partly cloudy at night.  It wouldn’t make any difference, I knew.  The city lights wold obscure the stars anyway.

Many years ago we lived outside of Philadelphia for a couple of years.  Too many city lights to see the stars.  We moved to San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the nation, and lived there twenty-nine years.  Couldn’t see the stars.  Now we live in Virginia Beach, the largest city in Virginia.  No stars.  People in cities may tell you they see the stars, but what they see are weak and few at best.

However, after we were first married, we lived in Storrs, Connecticut, a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere.  In the summer my husband and I would lie on the front lawn, a hill overlooking the cornfields and cow pastures, and stare up at the black sky alive with millions of bright stars.  The contrast between the dark of night and the light of the stars was intense.  We felt so small, but in a good way, like the sky was saying, “In case you ever get too full of yourselves, just look up here and we’ll put you in your place.  You’re not in charge.”

This past Saturday night we went to see Harry Potter and then sat outside at one of the many restaurants in Town Center, a busy city center that reminds me of some of the small city neighborhoods around Boston.  I had a glass of wine, my husband a beer, and we shared some potstickers.  Then we walked arm in arm to get some Italian gelato on the next block and listened to a band that was playing on the Square.  Town Center was a vibrant place, filled with conversation, laughter, and music.  There was nothing peaceful and quiet about it, and I loved it.  I felt alive!

I would not want to go back to living in a place as isolated as Storrs.  I know many people love the country and would cringe at the thought of living in a city.  I guess there are Country People and City People.  But now and then, I have a hankering to climb that hill once more, throw down my blanket, and stare at the stars.  You have to give up something precious to be a city girl.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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22 Responses to Star Struck

  1. Pingback: Life in the Slow Lane | Coming East

  2. winsomebella says:

    I like your description of city life. Though I couldn’t give up the starry starry nights I have at my mountain cabin, I love the vibrancy and energy you can find only in a city.

  3. Robin says:

    I’m a country girl at heart, but love visiting the city. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to live the city life temporarily when he takes his sabbaticals. A summer in London, a year in St. Louis, and almost a year near Philadelphia. It’s always fun, but I also enjoy it when we return home to the peace, quiet (well, it’s not really so quiet with the frogs, the coyotes, the owls, etc.), and the stars. 🙂

    • comingeast says:

      Sounds as if you have the best of both worlds. I would love to have enough money to live in the city (preferably Boston) and have a getaway house on Cape Cod.

  4. huffygirl says:

    I’m a country girl, as you’ve probably guessed from my posts about growing up. I live in mid-sized city, close to the country, and surrounded by small towns, so it’s a good compromise.

    Either way, city mouse or country mouse, sounds like you and your husband had a perfect day.

    • comingeast says:

      We did! You’d think, since there are so many things to do here, that we’d go out all the time, but we get in a rut and have been spending most Saturday nights at home. So this past Saturday’s date night was so fun, we think we’re going to repeat it more often.

  5. My favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle loved both city and country. She lived in a flat in New York City much of her life, and in a huge rambling house in New Jersey countryside the rest of the time. It sounds like a perfect match to me…She made both sound so romantic and lovely. Another one of my favorite authors Jan Karon writes of a fictitious town name Mitford. It is small and charming. In some of her lectures she talks about community, and how community can be found anywhere, in a burrough in New York or in a glade in South Carolina. Home is wherever we allow God to reveal Himself to us.

    • comingeast says:

      I read and reread all the Mitford novels and read both of the Father Tim novels. I love the little towns Jan Karon creates and the love in her made-up communities. I know that it can be real in many different places. I loved your comment!

  6. Leah says:

    What were you or your husband doing when you lived in Storrs? I was born in Manchester, CT and my parents and I lived in Storrs for a year when my dad was working as a professor at UConn. Small world!

    • comingeast says:

      Unbelievably small world! My husband and I met as students at UConn then lived there for six more years after we graduated. My husband was the executive lieutenant at the campus police department at the time. Then he got his Masters at U of Hartford and got a job as the Director of Security and Safety at a community college outside Philadelphia. When did you live there? We’re old people, so I’m sure we were long gone when you were there.

  7. Lovely post. I think both the city and the country life have its romantic appeal, but we have only one place to really call “home”. Glad you are enjoying yours. 🙂

  8. E.C. says:

    It sounds like a lovely and enjoyable town you live in, like a Norman Rockwell painting. 🙂

  9. bookcism says:

    stars is us,,^,^

  10. I’ve always lived in a small town and like it. I live near Atlanta so if I get a hankering i can go get a taste of the big city, The Fox Theater, High Museum of Art, the famous Varsity restaurant and many other things. However I know for certain small town living is for me. I love the quiet,clear nights, and days for that matter. There’s a security I feel here that I’m not sure I’d feel in a big city. But everybody is different. I visited California this summer and loved it. Loved the hustle and bustle and excitement only for a few days.

    Your post was wonderful. I love the way you describe your life. The walk you and your hubbby had arm in arm. Delightful! Harry Potter- I can[t wait to go!

    • comingeast says:

      Like I said, Country People and City Folk! Actually, living in Fairfield, Connecticut was wonderful, because the NYC lights were fifty miles away. But it still wasn’t as black as those nights in Storrs. Harry Potter was great!

  11. I grew up watching the stars! Once, during an eclipse, my mother and brother took out lawn chairs and sat in old pasture watching all night. And another time, I woke my kids at 3AM to go out and watch the best meteor shower I’ve ever seen. Yeah, you can see that in the city, but it’s not quite as sharp. However, we didn’t have the museums, the wonderful library systems, the music…all within walking distance. I agree, either way, you’re giving something up. Lovely post.

  12. Julia says:

    I’ve thought a lot about this lately — because right now we live in a very small town (8500) near the largest city in Maine (still only 150,000 or so), and the whole state only has 1.4 million people! There are times I really wish we lived in a larger city for more cultural opportunities and amenities and vibrancy, but then when I come home I feel like I’m breathing a sigh of relief, just getting back into a less urban area — but it sounds like you’ve found a happy medium…

    • comingeast says:

      Did you ever live in or near a big city? I think that’s the difference. It’s what you know and what you’re comfortable with. We lived in Storrs for six years, plus I went to school there for four years, so I know country living is not for me. But I did find the beauty of it and the peace, and I’m glad I had that experience.

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