The Earliest Sunrise
“What? What?.......” I say rolling over onto my right side, the underside of my palm wiping my left eye.
“It’s time. It’s 4:58. It’s time to get up…”
“RIght……. Right…” I glance over at the clock on the nightstand, blurry-eyed, my vision adjusting to the light. It’s 4:58 and the sun is peeking through the right side of the curtain.
“You told me to wake you up…..”
“I know…....I remember. Can you keep your voice down? Mommy’s sleeping”.
Vaughn’s voice is unusually loud, reverberating throughout the house at this early hour.
As we pad down the stairs quietly, I recall the conversation I had with Vaughn the day before.
“Daddy, do you know what tomorrow is?” Vaughn asks me, never looking up from his tablet.
“Yup, it’s June 13th…”
“Yes, and do you know why that is important?”
“No….no, I don’t”
“It’s the earliest sunrise of the year - 5:13 am. After June 13th, the sun rises later each day by 20-30 seconds.”
Meteorology and astronomy is Vaughn’s latest research obsession, spending hours on his tablet and on YouTube looking up all kinds of random facts in these areas: when does the sun rise in Fairbanks Alaska on Dec. 21? What is the highest recorded temperature ever in our town? When is the next harvest moon? When is the astronomical high tide in Narragansett Bay? When was the latest snowfall ever in Rhode Island? When does the sun set on Nov. 18th? Does Reykjavik get any sunlight in the month of December? Looking up these facts is an endless source of delight for Vaughn, and he intermittently peppers me with these facts throughout the day.
“I want to wake up early tomorrow and watch the sunrise. I want to take a photo with my tablet”
“You can do that…...it’s Saturday. It's not like you have school or anything”
“I want you to join me.”
“Do you want me to join you?” Jen interjects.
“Looks like I get off easy” she adds.
As we head down the stairs and make our way out the front door, I think about how flattered I was the day before when Vaughn wanted to watch the sun rise solo with Daddy. Now that it’s 5:00 am, I’m rethinking this sunny feeling. I’d rather be back in bed
We swing open the screen door and plop ourselves into two Adirondack chairs we have perched on our front terrace. Vaughn sits down with purpose, clutching the armrests like he’s sitting on a throne. The bright and determined countenance on his face showing that he is full anticipation of this once-a-year event.
The sky is beautiful, textured with silken marble-colored clouds. But it's the silence that is so magical. The whole world has gone so deeply quiet, so amazingly still, the intense fragility of the day is being born, interrupted by the occasional songbird.
“What time is it?” I ask
“5:10, just 3 more minutes” Vaughn’s voice a perfect harmony of hope and full confidence.
I take a deep breath in and surrender to the moment. Every Dad can have a moment like this, a sunrise, a sunset, a stolen moment, a captured moment, like a photograph, where we pause - take it all in - embrace the fullness of the scene, just Dad and son. The sunrise is a triumphant event, to be celebrated on the earliest morning of the year - more thrilling than the NFL season opener, fireworks on the 4th of July fireworks, or dumping your pillowcase of candy on the floor of your family room after a lucrative Halloween.
“It’s 5:13. Daddy, I’m going to take a picture.” Vaughn rises from the Adirondack chair, holding it up high towards the horizon to the northeast, an embryonic sun poking out over our neighbors’ oaks.
“Got it” he exclaims with true contentment, no doubt feeling good that he can share this evidence with his mom of his commitment late today.
“How do you feel?” I say looking over at Vaughn.
He does not respond, still looking towards the northeast.
“Daddy, close your eyes”
“Just close your eyes”
“Oh, okay” I dutifully obey.
There is a prolonged silence. I can hear the morning sounds more clearly now- wood thrushes, distant tree frogs, leaves gently rustling in a breeze behind us.
Keeping my eyes closed, I break and say ”Vaughn, can I open my eyes now?”
No response, though I can hear him near me.
I slowly open my right eye, then both eyes, and turn my head to look over at him. He cocks his head owl-like to the side, and grins.
“Daddy, I can smell the sun………….”