First Shooting Star

January 18, 2009
By Stephanie Kendzior Kendzior, Inverness, IL

I stared into the hot fire. The tangerine and aqua colored flame dance so beautifully I could not help but watch in amazement. My eyes followed the large, graceful flames down to the thick, rough logs and smooth, heavy rocks that surrounded the base of the fire. Small pieces of peeling bark and tiny sparks spontaneously burst out from the fire and into the air. The night was especially quiet. After a long day of tubing, water skiing, and building countless sand castles, all the yelling cousins, crying babies, and barking dogs had finally been tired out and put to bed. The lake was calm. The water, which only hours earlier had been rough and choppy from speeding wave runners, was a sheet of glass with only the wind producing an occasional ripple. The hot sun had set and the heat had cooled down to a gentle breeze. I sat around the campfire with my aunts, uncles, and older cousins, holding our breath in silence, anticipating the rustle of one of the children scampering out of bed. The quiet crackling of burning wood and sudden pop of broken sticks seemed to echo through the night. The sound comforted me and filled what otherwise would have been an awkward silence. The sharp outline of the bright fire against the dark night sky was beginning to blur. I resisted the urge to blink as long as possible, in a desperate attempt to witness every movement of the flame. The fire’s warmth seemed to wrap around my body like a fleece blanket; but my eyes, still staring into the bright flame, felt like eggs frying in a pan, and I was forced to close them momentarily.
“Look! Did you see it!?” a familiar voice whispered. The voice sounded distant, but I recognized it was my older cousin Jill. This was the first time I had looked up from the fire, in what must have been about a half hour. I scanned my relatives sitting in a circle of chairs surrounding the fire. Besides Uncle Mike, who seemed to be drifting into a peaceful sleep, everyone was watching the delicate fire with the same intensity that I had. I noticed that three seats were empty and soon realized that Jill, her boyfriend Jimmy, and Aunt Sue were missing from the campfire. They must have been sitting out on the deck by the lake, next to the fishing poles. It’s a little late for fishing, I thought to myself. Although momentarily distracted, my focus returned to the beautiful dancing flames. About a minute later, I heard Jimmy enthusiastically yell, “Hey! Woow! Up to the right! I saw that one!!” “Yea! That was a bright one!” Jill exclaimed. My curiosity was increasing. I looked up through the flame to my remaining relatives, but no one even seemed to notice the excited yells that were coming from the deck. “What’s going on over there?” I asked. “I have no idea” my Aunt Karen replied, “but they are going to wake up all the kids if they keep yelling like that. Why don’t you go over there and tell them to quiet down.” I nodded, picked up the flashlight that was under my chair, and cautiously walked around the fire and the large pile of unused logs over to the deck.
“Who’s that!?” Jill murmured, “Turn off the flashlight!” I kept the light on, but pointed it down to the wooden deck floor. My little cousins’ fishing poles and lines had been out all day, and I was not going to risk stepping on a fish hook. As I reached the end of the deck, I found Jill, Jimmy, and Aunt Sue all laying on their backs, staring intently up at the sky. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I asked, “What are you guys doing? Your voices are echoing across the lake and Aunt Karen is afraid you’ll wake up the youngins.” “We are watching the shooting stars” Jill said nonchalantly. “Ha yea right” I said in disbelief, “there aren’t any shooting stars.” “That’s what I thought” Jimmy replied, “but we’ve seen two already!” I nodded, still in disbelief. I had never seen one in my life, and to think that they had seen two in the last half hour seemed questionable. “Well, ok but you guys just keep it down because Aunt Karen sai--“ In unison, their surprised facial expressions and excited screams started again. “Hey!!!! Look another!!! Straight up, next to the little dipper!!” “Where! Where!? I don’t see it!” I shrieked desperately. I quickly got down on my back and lay next to my cousin. “Ooh that one was sweet and so long!” Jimmy shouted with glee. My feelings had changed and I was anxious and excited to search for the shooting stars. Jill scooted down and made room for me on the deck and pointed to where I should look. “Ok, they can pretty much be anywhere in the sky so you have to keep your eyes open, and try not to look at a specific spot or you might miss it. But so far, there have been a lot up to the right over there. They shoot right through that cluster of stars.”
I was so excited and eager to see the shooting star that I was feeling a little nervous and giddy, like a little kid going to see Santa Clause. I tried to calm myself and focus. I thought of how peaceful and carefully I had studied the flames as I sat around the fire earlier. I tried to feel that same concentration and tranquility. As I lay on the deck, I noticed that the air was much cooler away from the fire. But the night was so beautiful. The sky, a dark majestic blue, was adorned with tiny diamonds floating, like drops of morning dew or tiny snowflakes resting in the air. I was amazed by the beauty of the night sky and how peaceful and relaxed I felt. I took a mental picture of the sky that I hoped to cherish and remember forever. I admired the perfect shade of blue in the cloudless sky, the swirl and sparkle of an unending sea of stars, and just then out of the corner of my eye -- A single star, bright as day went shooting by! I felt butterflies dance in my stomach and my heartbeat race with surprise! I screamed with joy! “Ahhhh!! I saw it! I saw a shooting star!” By this time, all my relatives and younger cousins were awake and running to the deck. I had been so surprised by the sight of the sparkling star that I completely forgot to make a wish. I thought a minute. What would I wish for? Waiting patiently for the next dancing star, all I could think about was how happy, relaxed and satisfied my heart felt. I loved that feeling and had never experienced anything quite like it; the tingling sensation of excited butterflies in my stomach, the calming powers of the majestic midnight sky, and the sudden rush of a heart smiling, all due to a single shooting star. Only moments later, I witnessed a second star glide across the sky. I closed my eyes, made my wish, and smiled. I wish to always remember the wonder, joy, and surprise my heart feels right now. That was my wish, to never forget what it feels like for my heart to truly smile. We stayed up about an hour longer, all of us lying under the night blanket admiring the stars and sharing the surprise as single sparkling stars spontaneously raced across the sapphire sky. Around 11 everyone headed off to bed. But I stayed under the midnight sky until my eyelids grew weary and heavy. I fell asleep peacefully under the stars, with a permanent smile on my face and my heart full of hope. I had learned to believe, and I made eight wishes that night.

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