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.