It wasn't long after my husband and I sat down around last Friday night's bonfire and weenie roast with my parents that Mom said, "I just saw one!" and pointed at the sky right above us.
Dad immediately said sarcastically, "You did not!"
She insisted he had seen a comet, a beautiful one that streaked across the sky, she said.
I had just told them about the Orionid meteor shower, remnants of Halley's Comet, and that the shower was supposed to peak that night about midnight. They both wanted to stay up a bit to catch more, and I said I probably would too.
About 1 a.m. I debated going outside into the chilly fall air and lying on that wet grass. My bed was calling. I had been listening to music on my computer and working on a project.
Finally about 1:10 a.m. I grabbed my colorful cotton blanket I picked up in Mexico a few years ago, quickly flicked off the deck light and walked outside. My yellow Labrador Max was rustling around in his doghouse and came bounding out to meet me on my deck ramp. He knew this song and dance from when we watched the Perseids earlier in the year.
I spread the blanket in the middle of the backyard, and Max became even more excited. As I settled and started watching the sky, he started gobbling the grass around my viewing spot. When he's excited and we're outside with him, which is his favorite thing, he nibbles grass in the yard or fallen leaves on the deck. I laughed, and he shifted some, searching for a bit of a greener pasture I suppose. He was lying down to my right, just off the blanket's edge, as I was on my back.
A few minutes passed, and from my spot, I saw one too - a large comet making its way across the sky directly where I was looking.
"I just saw one, Max," I told him (like he really knew what I was talking about), and he got up and bounced around to my left side, then wandered off for about two minutes before coming right back to me and lying down again. My protector. The grass chomping continued in the still darkness. I could hear his thick, rudder-like Lab tail thumping on the lawn next to me.
Some time later, after I had seen a few more smaller comets, he got up and snuffled my face and hair while standing over me, all 85 pounds of him, tail wagging the whole time.
"I wish I were as happy as you always are every day," I told him. He truly is the happiest dog I've ever known. I scratched his ears and talked to him a bit more, still searching for comets in the October sky.
Chomp, nibble, chomp. Eventually he had his fill and put his huge, square head on his paws and just stared at me in the darkness. My loyal protector.
I heard what I suspected was my neighbor's ducks twice and what I imagined to be a hungry, bedraggled possum rummaging through my other neighbor's backyard. There was still plenty of traffic zooming down toward and away from Second Mill.
By this time, it was about 1:30 a.m., and I began shivering in my red flannel pajamas and navy blue Iditarod hoodie. Max became more concerned about me, getting up and pawing me to get up too.
"It's bedtime, human," I could practically hear him begging me.
We had seen six comets in about half an hour but none as spectacular as the first. That one was worth the soggy grass, the hot Lab breath in my face and staying up far too late. Max stayed next to me the whole time except for those few minutes of wandering.
We made our way back to the house together, Max walking just ahead but making sure I was still coming, looking over his shoulder. He curled up on his plaid comforter in the laundry room, and I made my way to bed. 1:40 a.m.
There's not much better than convincing yourself to go outdoors to enjoy the cool, still night, especially if you have a buddy along for the adventure and a few comets to spot.
Melanie Smith works as an editor and designer for The Sumter Item. In her spare time, she enjoys trying to tame her yard, spending time with her husband and pets and taking photographs with Sumter Digital Camera Club.