I am one of the lucky ones.
This is because when I was seven years old my Father saw to it that I had my own pair of binoculars.
First, he planted the seed that lit the spark.
He always talked about stars, and the moon and the sun. I was barely four years old when my Father would take me for evening walks down Dufferin street, in a popular Toronto suburb. As we walked, he would point to the moon and the stars and tell me how far away they were and how glorious and mysterious this universe was.
He even taught me a little German children’s song called “Weiss Du Wie Viel Sternlein Stehen.”
We would sing it together as we walked the circumference of our apartment building while out for our evening walks.
The melody was lovely, and the sentiment equally so.
Try to imagine me as a four year old child, stumbling through the following German verse:
Weißt du, wieviel Sternlein stehen
An dem blauen Himmelszelt?
Weißt du, wieviel Wolken gehen
Weithin über alle Welt?
Gott der Herr hat, sie gezählet,
Dass ihm auch nicht eines fehlet
An der ganzen großen Zahl,
An der ganzen großen Zahl.
Which in English translates into:
Do you know how many little stars there are
In the wide blue sky?
Do you know how many clouds
There are over the whole wide world?
The Lord God counted them so well,
That none are missing
From the whole big lot of them,
From the whole big lot of them.
My imagination had been sparked.
Then, I started receiving an allowance of ten cents a week when I was five years old.
My father had procured a ceramic piggy bank into which each week we would both ceremoniously insert a dime. This allowance was earned by making my bed, brushing my teeth, and generally for being a good girl.
From time to time, family and friends would give me small monetary gifts, a quarter here, a nickel there. Once, I received a dollar from a Grandparent in a birthday card.
“This is for ice cream,” read my Grandmother’s all too familiar handwriting script.
However, I knew better. Dad’s rules were that should I ever receive any money, half had to be saved. Happily, that still left me enough money for an ice cream cone at the local Dairy Queen.
By the time I was seven old I had saved six dollars. Not long after that, my Father saw a newspaper flyer advertising binoculars on sale at Canadian Tire. He told me that the magnification was very powerful, but I had no idea what that meant.
The price was $14.
Dad and I had an agreement that as long as I kept saving for a pair of binoculars he would help pay for half.
Luckily Dad was so excited about these new binoculars he was willing to throw in the last two dollars that I needed.
I remember the first time that I held those binoculars. They were heavy, shiny, black, and well made. That was a time before everything was made of plastic.
Those binoculars lasted almost fifty years.
An unfortunate fall from a high closet smashed it into two.
I was heartbroken, and kept a small piece of the leather strap as a memento.
It wasn’t until 20 years ago I read Antoine De Saint Exupery’s book, THE LITTLE PRINCE, for the first time.
He swept me away with his simple yet eloquent writer’s voice.
It was in his quiet narrative that I realized that I was indeed one of the lucky ones.
At the beginning of the book the main character explains how he once made a simple drawing.
This picture to everyone else looked like a plain ordinary fedora style hat.
But it was not a hat.
What he had actually drawn was a snake who had just eaten an elephant.
Then he writes:
I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.
Whenever I met one of them who seemed to me at all clear-sighted, I tried the experiment of showing him my drawing number one, which I have always kept. I would try to find out, so, if this was a person of true understanding. But, whoever it was, he, or she, would always say: that is a hat. Then I would nevertalk to him about Boa constrictors, or primeval forest, or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge, and golf, and politics, and neckties. And the grown-up would be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible man.
This passage was an epoch in my life.
For years, I felt myself strange that I could sit in a circle of women at work who were endlessly discussing their searches for store coupons, pretty window dressings, the latest gossip, and feel completely alone. They became silent when I voiced my passion for social justice, reading, writing, and science.
In time, I began to eat alone.
That’s when I began to seek out like minded people, who In St. Exupery’s words I could about talk about…
Boa constrictors, or primeval forest, or stars…
I found them, or rather, we found each other.
Yes, I am one of the lucky ones…
I have been since I was four years old when my Father taught me a song about stars during an evening walk that lit the spark that led to a love of astronomy, primevil forests, children’s songs, and Antoine De Saint Exupery.
Thank you Father.
Thank you Friends.