Stardust

The stars floating above our heads on this Cool Maine evening look the same to me as they did when I was a thirteen year old boy surviving North Carolina. Every Sunday night I would flick on the garage light, throw open the back screen door and noisily drag the wheel-less trash cans down the gravel driveway. After placing the metal cans on the curb there would be a sudden piercing silence. Looking up at the starry sky I would imagine what life on a planet circling one of those distant points of light might be like; wondering if there was some lonely alien boy looking back at me.

But I was certain that any civilization existing on a distant planet would be far too advanced to be touched by divorce, discrimination or Sunday night football.  This was the year that my kind- hearted eighth grade teacher, Sister Mary Claire asked us to write a letter to our grown up selves; a message in a bottle to be delivered sometime in the distant future. 

I remember feeling self-conscious about what to write. As a thirteen year old gay boy in the south, I didn’t talk about my feelings, I suppressed them and goodness knows I didn’t eat them,  I was far too skinny.  So, I wrote a generic letter:
            Dear Bill,

            Wow, I can’t believe you are an adult now, congratulations!
I hope that life is good for you now and that you are happy.  I am sure that a lot has changed.  Are you still best friends with Willy?  I bet you are.
Do you still live in Greensboro?
Well, I better go now.
Sincerely,
You (Ha, ha!)

I don’t recall ever receiving the physical letter.  Perhaps Sister Mary Claire threw them all away in a rage after catching most of the eighth grade class in the field at recess smoking marijuana.  Or maybe she lost them when she was transferred to a convent in a crime riddled neighborhood of Baltimore.  Many years later I heard that she left the Catholic Church.  Perhaps the yellowed letters written with a number two pencil sit in a shoebox under a disenchanted aging woman’s bed who stares out at the expanding galaxy of her own past.  But it was less the actual delivery of the letter and more the act of writing it that spoke to me.  That there would be a future Bill in a distant world was enough of a message.
It did not occur to me then that Sister Mary Claire might have written a letter to herself. But we are all made of stardust.  I think we both searched the heavens looking for answers while the world around us spun out of control.

When Paul and I bought our cottage in Maine I bought two solar “sun jars”.  We place them under the full sun during the day and sit by their soft yellow light under the stars at night.  Tonight, I look up at the stars, and see their history; see the light that left on its journey through space years ago.  Looking across the table at Paul’s face I see the answer to that thirteen year old boy’s question and more importantly, the delivery of his message. 
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