We saw Saturn with the rings and everything.
It was little and white and … well, it could have been just a stencil laminated onto the state-of-the-art telescope at the top of Mauna Kea, the largest mountain from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the starry sky in the whole wide world.
I mean I wouldn’t know if it were the real Saturn or not.
My brother Robbie – who we’ve descended upon like blood-thirsty bats at his home on the Big Island – said going up Mauna Kea to the observatory was something we couldn’t miss.
We could see Saturn and drink hot chocolate/eat Top Ramen noodles at 9,000 feet and 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Food is a big motivator for me.
|My brother and kids. They all get carsick. Hmmm.|
So seven of us piled into our Dodge mini-van rental which shuddered like a tin can kicked up a gravel road through the wild, winding, grassy terrain between us and the nebula.
Whoever claimed to get sickest didn’t have to sit in back. My 13-year old niece Lauren snagged the front seat as she did some convincing near-barfing a few days earlier on a trip to Hilo.
She’s got one helluva Poker Face. No “Tells” whatsoever. Maybe a slight eye tic when she sneezes.
Either she really gets carsick or she’s laughing her ass off at the idiots turning green in the cargo hold.
Then there was an Incident.
Teenagers who might’ve been Shrooming had pulled over onto the shoulder and were dancing and lunging about in the middle of the two-lane road to Saturn.
Henry and my brother quickly power-locked the doors to the mini-van so they wouldn’t have to get out and Kick Some Ass. Because they could’ve if they had to.
Then there were the bladder issues. Some managed to time their bladder voiding with roadside rest stops.
Bridget and I weren’t so lucky. This is what it looks like to have your kid holding up your coat so you can pee behind it in the middle of wild boar country. Just thinking of those tusks gave me a case of Shy Bladder.
|It’s all fun and games till someone gets tusked.|
Finally, we arrived in the pitch blacky black of night at the Visitor’s Center of Mauna Kea.
Clare was immediately ill at ease. She’s not good in the pitch dark with crowds of lumbering people and a bunch of huge, phallic-looking things pointing up at the sky.
Were they really telescopes? Or missile silos?
When Clare gets nervous she gets a little Rainman-ish.
“Will the teenagers still be in the road when we go back? Will our brakes work going down hill? Why will they work? What if they don’t work? Were those kids drunk?”
I wanted to slip some Valium into her hot chocolate.
But I don’t have Valium, just Ambien and if she fell asleep I’d have to carry her, and my joints would creak and my back would break and I’d end up in traction hanging face-down and only ever be able to see the linoleum floor in some sanatorium.
And all because we had to see f%%king Saturn or a stencil of Saturn through a telescope freezing our butts off in Hawaii!
|I love these pink-cheeked Irish folk.|
Instead, I wrapped Clare in my coat and we walked like penguins through the crowds of people until our eyes adjusted to the dark and we looked through four telescopes at blue stars, the Milky Way and the aforementioned Saturn.
And on the way home the brakes worked and the teenagers were gone and yes, the car in front of us was weaving, but we laughed a lot with our cousins and no one barfed and it felt like an adventure whether Saturn was real or not. Sweet Jesus! Amen.